What led you to come up with this concept and the app in Uttar Pradesh?
Given that it is was a new and continuously evolving virus that affected the entire globe, people were scared and confused. With the WHO, CDC, and ICMR frequently changing their guidelines, we thought it would be useful to have a platform where we could provide accredited information and regular training required by the corona warriors in large rural areas. Adding to that, the app also provides training in audio-visual format at just a touch, so the corona warriors can learn and function from anywhere and anytime.
Given the population size of the state, what are some of the unique challenges for the state administration?
UP is not only the most populous State in India, it is the most populous country subdivision in the world. It is also India’s fourth largest State in area, and at 828 persons per square km, it is also one of the most densely populated. Predominantly rural and agrarian, it actually is like a different country altogether. With great divides between eastern UP, western UP and Bundelkhand, urban and rural UP, educated and non-educated, it poses a variety of challenges, as it behaves like a microcosm of diversity. So, one size fits all approach usually doesn’t work in UP. Therefore, while devising solutions for problems in UP, one has to keep in mind this diversity and the myriad of challenges it poses. What works in one part of the State might not work in another. Technology, however, works as a great equaliser. With high smartphone density and cheap 4G connectivity, bridging digital divide and bringing information to everyone uniformly has become possible.
Tell us about the Chikitsa Setu App, its unique features and benefits
“ChikitsaSetu” mobile app is India’s first training app developed for doctors, paramedical staff and other ‘Corona Warriors’ to safeguard themselves from Corona Virus and COVID-19 in the line of duty. Made in collaboration with King George Medical University (KGMU) and National Institute of Smart Government (NISG), it contains answers to their frequently asked questions about Corona virus and COVID-19, in the form of short, easy to understand training videos. It answers a range of FAQs, from as simple as “how to properly wear or remove masks and PPE kit”, to more advanced ones like “the protocol of transferring COVID patients from ambulance to hospital”, or “cold chain management of COVID vaccines”. The app and all videos are bilingual (in Hindi and English), and are based on ICMR guidelines. The app also includes COVID helpline numbers of Central and State Government, as well as hyperlinks to latest ICMR guidelines. The app has the facility of live webinar with government officials, top doctors etc for the benefit of its users.
Available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store, “ChikitsaSetu” has been downloaded more than two lakh times! It has proven to be of paramount importance, especially in rural and far-flung areas. Now, no doctor or nurse has to remember what needs to be done; they can simply open the app, select the appropriate video and follow the instructions. The Indian Medical Association has also found the app extremely useful and urged all their members to use it.
How did the launch of this app, help the ‘Aam Admi’ to fight against Covid-19?
One of the key learnings while implementing “ChikitsaSetu” was that in situ learning goes a long way, rather than calling trainees to a central location and imparting training. This prompted us to provide training videos at everyone’s fingertips. During the peak of the pandemic, movement of people, including doctors and training personnel was severely impacted. On the other hand, more and more people were getting infected and thus, intervention was required. Also, in a continuously evolving disease like COVID-19, the app needed to be dynamic, with frequent and regular updates. During the second wave of COVID-19, there was widespread infections and the demand for medical advice was far more than the available supply. Therefore, we incorporated a WhatsApp service inside the app whereby a dedicated team of volunteer doctors provided free medical advice to users who were unable to access it otherwise. This service, along with regular functions of the app, became hugely popular and useful for people and provided them much needed medical advice at their fingertips, at a time when hospitals were full and doctors were overburdened.
Has other states shown interest in learning about the Chikitsa Setu App? Could the app be used on the pan India level?
“ChikitsaSetu” app has been launched in five States and also hailed by the Central Government. The app has been launched in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand by their respective Chief Ministers, in Jammu & Kashmir by Lt. Governor and in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh by their Health Ministries. This has been possible due to the replicability and scalability of the app. We are currently in talks with a number of other States for launching the app in regional languages as well.
Are there any plans to update the Chikitsa Setu App to a complete training application for frontline medical workers?
Yes, indeed! “ChikitsaSetu” provides frequent, regular and updated training related to Corona virus and COVID-19 to doctors, paramedical staff, safaikarmis, police officials and other Corona Warriors. The future roadmap of “ChikitsaSetu” was charted quite soon, after we saw the overwhelming success and acceptance of the app, both among the public and the authorities. During the first and second waves of COVID-19, we kept the app regularly updated with latest guidelines, do’s and don’ts of WHO and ICMR. When vaccination started, we incorporated more videos for cold chain management of vaccines and vaccination protocols. In future, “ChikitsaSetu” is planned to evolve beyond COVID-19 and can be utilized as the single-stop solution for training of medical professionals across the country. From tackling Japanese Encephalitis in the Terai region of UP and Bihar to tackling Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, this app can provide instant and genuine training, at the fingertips of people. It can be used by ASHA and Anganwadi workers for prenatal and neonatal care of pregnant women, lactating mothers and children. There is no ceiling to the potential of “ChikitsaSetu”.
What other innovative features will be integrated with the app in the future?
The app, being dynamic and scalable, is ready of change. Like all software, frequent changes in “Chikitsa Setu” are inevitable. In the past as well, the app has seen many changes by adapting to emerging problem statements. The feature of “live webinar” was added when we saw the demand for interacting with ICMR scientists and top doctors of the country in the initial days of COVID-19. Similarly, during the second wave, medical advice on WhatsApp was imparted daily to hundreds of people, via its newly-formed module. In future, as well, more functionality will be added as and when the need arises.