How a single mobile app benefited thousands of people and frontline heroes in a few states through simplicity and content richness.

In the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most populous state with over 241 million inhabitants, a mobile app called “Chikitsa Setu” was created for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prashant Sharma

The inventor, a tech-savvy Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer in the government sector — Prashant Sharma — embellished the software with a user-friendly interface and features that helped save thousands of lives both within UP and across a few other states.

To find out more about this initiative, DigiconAsia spoke to Sharma to know more about the Chikitsa Setu app to find out how it has benefited many frontline personnel across the country.

DA: Tell us about Chikitsa Setu App. How is the app different from national contact tracing app Aarogya Setu?

chikitsa setu app

Sharma: The ‘Chikitsa Setu’ mobile app is India’s first training app developed for doctors, paramedical staff and other ‘corona warriors’ to safeguard themselves from the ‘novel coronavirus’ in the line of duty.

Made in collaboration with King George Medical University (KGMU) and the National Institute of Smart Government (NISG), it contains answers to frequently asked questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19 in the form of short, easy to understand training videos, covering topics such as ‘how to properly wear or remove masks and PPE kit’, to more advanced ones like ‘the protocol of transferring patients from ambulance to hospital’, or ‘cold chain management of COVID-19 vaccines’.

The app and all videos are in Hindi and English and are based on ICMR guidelines. The app also includes helpline numbers of the Central and State Government, as well as hyperlinks to the latest ICMR guidelines. The app can also facilitate ‘live webinars’ with government officials, top doctors etc. Available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store, ‘Chikitsa Setu’ has been downloaded more than two lakh times.

On the other hand, ‘Aarogya Setu’ is a mobile app developed by the Government of India for contact tracing only.

DA: How has the app helped frontline medical heroes deal with healthcare challenges then and now?

Sharma: The app provides frequent, regular and updated training to doctors, paramedical staff, safaikarmis (sweepers), police officials and other corona warriors. It has proven to be vitally important, especially in the rural and far-flung areas. Now, no doctor or nurse has to remember what needs to be done; they can simply launch the app, select the appropriate video and follow the instructions.

DA: Did you face any roadblocks when implementing the use of the app? How did you educate the masses about its usage?

Sharma: The user interface (UI) of the app was developed with the human element in mind. As a conscious decision, all videos in the app have been kept short, ranging from two to seven minutes. Moreover, an intuitive UI was adopted to group similar training videos into categories and allow horizontal scrolling within each category, similar to what the Netflix UI does. Lastly, a search function allows users to find any particular training video quickly.

As far as roadblocks are concerned, making training videos, especially during the pandemic, was a huge challenge. By collaborating with KGMU Lucknow, we worked with the best medical professionals to record videos in accordance with ICMR and WHO guidelines.

Keeping the videos short and succinct to appeal to the masses was another challenge, which we overcame by subdividing questions into smaller, manageable parts, which took several iterations. During the process, many of our team members also contracted COVID-19, but we kept on pushing forward.

Another challenge was creating awareness about the app. Fortunately, the launch by respective Chief Ministers and the recognition by Indian Medical Association helped to spread the word.

DA: What were some of the key lessons of producing the app that can be implemented in the other states?

Sharma: We learned that, rather than getting people to congregate at a central location for training, learning on-the-go whenever needed, was more useful. This prompted us to provide training videos at everyone’s fingertips.

Moreover, in a continuously evolving pandemic , the app needed to be dynamic, with frequent and regular updates. During the second COVID-19 wave here, there were 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.

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.

The Indian Medical Association has also found the app extremely useful and has urged all members to use it.

DA: What future innovations are you integrating within the app?

Prashant: The future roadmap of ‘Chikitsa Setu’ 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 the disease, we kept the app regularly updated with the latest guidelines and WHO/ICMR Do’s and Don’ts. When vaccination started, we incorporated more videos for cold chain management of vaccines and vaccination protocols. In future, the app will evolve beyond the pandemic for use as the one-stop solution for the training of medical professionals across the country.

From tackling Japanese Encephalitis in the Terai region of UP and Bihar to tackling the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, this app can provide instant certified training at the fingertips of people. It can be used by Accredited Social Health Activist and Anganwadi (courtyard shelter) workers for prenatal and neonatal care. There is no ceiling to the potential of this app!