Published: 29th May 2021
How the MIT grad, who helped design Aarogya Setu, and his friends are helping patients connect to doctors free, with a new app
MedicSetu is a not-for-profit setup which is being run by experienced techies and is delivering medical consultation even to the remotest parts of India
The Indian medical infrastructure is under immense pressure as the country fights the second wave of COVID-19. Doctors and other medical staff are stressed and overworked. As serious COVID patients throng the hospitals, many others who are quarantined at home with mild symptoms or are affected by other illnesses find it difficult to consult a doctor. MedicSetu, a not-for-profit national online video consultation OPD, is the answer to their medical queries.
The website helps connect patients to doctors online via video conferencing — and all of it for free. Kunaal Prasad, an MIT graduate and the current COO of the National Language Translation Mission of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, realised the immense pressure the health sector is under and was exploring ways to mitigate the problem. "I was enquiring whether there is a system where government and private doctors can contribute over video calls and found out that there is a system called e-Sanjeevani and is obviously being used by the Health Ministry. But it comes with certain restrictions. there were so many NGOs who were in touch with the Minister's (Ravi Shankar Prasad) office and wanted to contribute. When I came to know about this I thought why not collaborate amongst our colleagues, friends and anyone willing to help about bringing up a system for a social cause," said Kunaal.
Kunaal got in touch with Anish Kumar, Managing Director and Co-founder of I-Novate Group of Companies who called up Paritosh Gandhi, Director at Avaya India and Shailendra Jain, Founder of My Senior Doctors to make MedicSetu happen. While Kunaal took up designing, the other too divided the job amongst themselves. "Within five to six days we were not only able to go live but also start doctor registrations, set up volunteers and everything else we needed to be fully functional," said Kunaal, who worked on Aarogya Setu from scratch and had hands-on experience. MedicSetu went live on May 10, 2021.
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They have more than 160 doctors on board now and everyone is working pro-bono. With Ravi Shankar Prasad's help, they have teamed up with organisations like the Rotary Club and Aarogya Foundation who are helping them strengthen their physician base. "We would be seeing somewhere around 3,000 doctors join in. The system can take up to 10,000 doctors so there's no pressure on the system as of yet," said Kunaal. Even though they do not have language-wise distinctions yet, they plan to add it once a few more doctors come in and all the Rotary Clubs join in. "We are literally adding features on the go. Soon, people will be able to choose which language they are comfortable in and a doctor who speaks that language will be connected," he added.
But what about places that do not have internet connectivity. India's internet penetration is still at a low 37 per cent. "We are bringing in an Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) very soon. This will have a toll free number that won't require an internet connection. We are also training volunteers at COVID isolation centres set up by Aarogya Foundation in rural India so that they can help even the internet illiterate connect with a doctor and seek help," added Kunaal.