The second wave of COVID in India is choking healthcare systems, with many across the country losing their lives in ambulances and parking lots outside hospitals for lack of oxygen supply.
Several tech companies are exploring the use of AI-powered chatbots to support individuals during the pandemic, with an aim to improve experience of patients and better outcomes.
Bangalore-based conversational AI start-up Verloop.io is the latest among them to have released a WhatsApp Chatbot that helps provide information on oxygen cylinders and medical supplies.
Fahad (35), a software engineer based in Bangalore shared how he managed to procure an oxygen cylinder for his father using the WhatsApp chatbot.
“My father was diagnosed with COVID recently and he started having serious breathing issues. With a nationwide shortage of oxygen, it was getting difficult to find any solution. I quickly shared all the details on a WhatsApp conversation bot. After collecting the details, the bot managed to find me the cylinder within three hours," Fahad told The Quint.
The AI-powered chatbot acts as a bridge between patients or friends and relatives of patients looking for resources and suppliers, including individuals and hospitals.
How Does It Work?
Any person seeking resources, such as oxygen cylinder, a hospital bed, or any medical supply, needs to send a 'Hi' on the WhatsApp number +918047107750 and the bot will help in mobilising resources and help people get what they need.
Narrating his experience, Ritesh Kalvellu (25), an IT professional said that the bot helped him get a plasma donor for his grandfather in Mumbai. “My grandfather was in dire need of plasma therapy, even after reaching out for help on social media platforms, I could not arrange a matching donor,” he said.
Kalvellu reached out to his friends who told him about a WhatsApp number that could be of use. "At first, I did not know that I was using a bot. But as soon as I dropped a message, five options were sent to me." The options were:
- I am in need of Oxygen Concentrator Machine.
- I want to donate to the cause
- Join as a volunteer
- Anything else?
- Know about the backers and KVN Foundation
- Please type the number of the option you'd like to choose.
Kalvellu told The Quint that he chose option 4 and requested for a plasma donor. "After a few hours, I was matched with a donor," he added.
Gaurav Singh, Founder & CEO, Verloop.io, said that a dedicated team is manning the WhatsApp chat all the time to ensure no requirement went unattended. The team collects vital information, like name, mobile number, city and requirement. "The team then responds to the respective contact and helps the person in need,” Singh said.
'Doing What We are Good At'
There are several other conversational bots and messengers that have now begun processing and responding to SOS calls for oxygen cylinders, vaccinations, medical supplies and ICU beds.
Singh believes that now is the time for the tech industry to work together in a way that ensured people in need are served in the best possible manner.
“It’s time for us to do our best and use our platform to build a meaningful communication highway to bridge the gap for the needy.”Gaurav Singh, Founder & CEO, Verloop.io