India is seemingly leading the world in the fight against Covid-19. We have managed to improve recovery rates and are well into the second phase of the vaccination drive. Our spirit is boosted by our capacity to manufacture and administer high-efficiency, homegrown vaccines.
As we prepare to run a massive immunisation program, the challenge to vaccinate a billion people against Covid-19 is larger than anticipated. Beyond manufacturing the vaccine for the huge population of the country, strategically planning its distribution is also important. The job gets tougher considering the current infrastructure and mindset of the population. Alongside the vaccine, a large amount of information also needs to be made available to the public for a well-managed and simple process. Considering the diverse demographics of the country, crucial information regarding vaccination must be made available in regional languages. The Government of India (GoI) has already announced a national mission to support local language translation, which will ensure accurate information reaches citizens of all states.
Backed by the success of its 42-year-old immunisation framework, India is confident of maintaining its track record of immunising large numbers of people. Still, there are measures the government must take to improve the speed and efficiency of vaccine dissemination, and providing virtual assistance is one of them. Here is how the process can be accelerated and improved for all Indians:
The challenges, in gist
● A lot of misinformation and speculation against the vaccine are prevalent across the country.
● Answering FAQs and make relevant information about Covid-19 vaccination available such as the nearest vaccination centre, eligibility of individuals for vaccination, and probable side effects.
● Ensuring availability of time slots, healthcare workers, and required number of vaccine doses at every center.
● Tracking vaccine effectiveness and patient health post-immunisation.
● Constant reporting to the state governments and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
● Ensuring follow up on booster dose schedule.
Importance of a virtual assistant
There are several challenges but the situation isn’t intractable. Leveraging technology will virtually support the vaccination drive through parts of the country that have an adequate digital infrastructure. Using conversational chatbots powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), it's possible to reach out to more people with information and make the entire process hassle-free.
Build web chat applications, WhatsApp chatbots
There will be a lot of queries in the minds of the citizens, and more people will engage with health officials to acquire genuine information. Building a web chatbot or WhatsApp chatbot will be a handy solution to answer their queries. All information should be sourced through government approved and reliable resources to avoid any miscommunication. The chatbots will reduce human intervention and ensure error-free circulation of essential information.
Benefits of using a chatbot
● Instantly provide verified information from relevant sources only.
● Address more queries in less time in different regional languages in accordance with the National Language Translation Mission announced during the Union Budget 2021-22.
● Close trust gaps and boost public confidence in the vaccine.
● 24/7 availability.
● Save human labour for more complex tasks.
● Analytics can keep the government informed about the issues or queries in the minds of the public.
● Help people to sign up for a vaccine appointment
Alongside providing assistance the chatbot can even serve for making crucial local level information available for the citizens.
The chatbot can allow them to:
● Search for the nearest vaccination centre, check appointment availability.
● After the appointments are booked, the chatbot will set a reminder to ensure the patient reaches on time for the procedure.
● An automatic reminder for the second shot.
It will ensure the process is more streamlined and transparent. Proper appointment booking will smoothen the management of patients at the vaccination centres.
The government can use the chatbot for additional purposes:
● Limit the number of patients visiting a vaccination centre and ensure adherence to physical distancing norms.
● Automatically follow up with each patient to record his health condition and track any complications.
● Healthcare workers can guide patients post-vaccination and offer immediate assistance in case of an emergency.
● Study analytics collected by the chatbots to identify and address common issues arising during vaccination.
● Simplifying the process in digitally advanced cities across the country will free up human resources. The government can deploy them for other important roles or in rural and remote regions.
● A foolproof system for sharing essential information and appointment tracking will also put a check on black marketing and preferential treatment.
AI will ensure adequate and accurate resolution of public concerns within stringent timelines. It will largely assist in avoiding misinformation and control the spread of fake news. NLP can make the conversation more relevant and humane. The chatbot will scan for specific queries through knowledge banks and deliver well-targeted answers to maintain relevance and reduce frustration at the patient’s end. Implementing the chatbot will reduce the pressure of the government in reassuring Indian citizens.
The writer is a Founder & CEO of Verloop.io