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Coming to the rescue: Apthamitra the Covid-19 helpline

Highlights

  • “He was very keen that we start reaching out to the international travelers in the smartest possible way, using technology." – Anantha Radhakrishnan, CEO & MD, Infosys BPM, speaking about the Karnataka government officials in the wake of Covid-19
  • The decisions that are going to be made over here will have a real impact on the lives of people,” – Vijay Narsapur, VP & Strategic Business Practice Head – Customer Experience & HRM, Infosys BPM, speaking about the development of Apthamitra
  • “What the team has been able to deliver is something that is scalable as a module required to be able to track any sort of outreach from a government standpoint,” – Satish Nair, VP and Business Head, Infosys BPM

It was a Saturday evening in March, when Anantha Radhakrishnan, CEO & MD, Infosys BPM, got a call around 8.30 pm from a senior health official at the Government of Karnataka.

"He had a very unique problem,” says Radhakrishnan indicating that this call came in right around the time when the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic was becoming more and more apparent to governments across India.

“The last two weeks, or so, he had about 5,000 international travelers coming into the state of Karnataka through the Bengaluru Airport, Mangaluru Airport, as well as the Karwar Port… He was very keen that we start reaching out to the international travelers in the smartest possible way, using technology."

The government officials wanted to inform, educate, and make the international travelers entering the state aware of the need for home quarantine.

“He was very keen that we start reaching out to the international travelers in the smartest possible way, using technology." – Anantha Radhakrishnan, CEO & MD, Infosys BPM

This conversation sowed the seed of what became a state endeavor to quickly respond to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation through Tracking, Tracing, Testing, and Treating people across the state of Karnataka.

Over a weekend, leaders at Infosys BPM put together a team that would work on a technology solution that would help put together a tele-medicine helpline, as well as a mobile application, to help limit the spread of infection in Karnataka.

This solution was named Apthamitra.

Apthamitra, in Kannada, means a soulmate, an alter ego, or a very close friend, and the aim of the initiative was to ensure that the citizens of Karnataka have help at hand at all times.

Step 1: Onboarding the A-Team

At Infosys, People from across the organization came together and began their search for the ideal friend for the citizens of Karnataka.

One such person was Deepthi, Karnam, Specialist Programmer, Infosys STG. who came on board from the word go, especially enthused after a conversation with her father.

“The only thing that he told me at that moment was, ‘This is a never before situation. This is a global crisis. Doctors and a lot of other people are going out and risking their lives to support all of us. You are not ready to work for a few extra hours, each day, just to do this?’”

Many of Deepthi’s colleagues also felt the same way, and despite having to stay indoors, they ensured they put themselves and their talent to work at a time like this.

For her colleague Namrata Singh, Principal Consultant at Infosys BPM, also, this was personal.

“Tomorrow it could be anyone – friend, family – who may get into this situation and would want to reach out for help,” she says.

Ensuring the timeliness of the project, Singh and her colleagues took up additional responsibilities, and worked tirelessly through the timelines, and constant pressure.

Both expressed gratitude for each of the team members who put in tremendous amount of effort, time, and energy into the project.

The leaders agree.

Satish Nair, VP and Business Head, Infosys BPM, calls it a core combination of the head and the heart.

“This is an absolutely fantastic team, technically, to be able to set up, build, configure, maintain, enhance that system in such a short period of time,” says Nair, adding, “The fact that there was a purpose, brought the heart out from each one of them to be able to deliver on that requirement.”

Step 2: To be on time, and in tune

The A-team had two weeks in hand, and given this timeline, speed and agility were crucial. But not only that, it was also essential that the solution was in tune with the rapidly evolving regulations, as well as the different situations that people in the state were facing.

“It was about being completely in tune with what the expectation was evolving on the ground, and to be able to create an application, an ecosystem to support the whole phase,” says Nair.

The team worked closely with the authorities all through, appreciative of the fact that the government’s agenda was strong, and the initiative was clear.

“It was about how fast we execute. When do we go live? And it had to coincide with the relaxation of rules (that were) happening,” says Ravishankar P, AVP & Business Head, Infosys BPM, adding, “We had to be ready.”

The team put together a telemedicine helpline called, Apthamitra Sahayavani at 14410, which was available for the citizens of Karnataka to call and talk to a healthcare expert on the phone. Campaigns were created to share the information with people across the city.

According to Vijay Narsapur, VP & Strategic Business Practice Head – Customer Experience & HRM, Infosys BPM, it was crucial to ensure the right decisions were taken by the team.

“The decisions that are going to be made over here will have a real impact on the lives of people,” says Narsapur, adding that the requirements would change every day, because the nature of the virus, and the action that was needed was changing as well.

“Because you see these dynamic requirements coming in, how do you make sure that the technology team is thinking two steps ahead,” asks Nair.

“The decisions that are going to be made over here will have a real impact on the lives of people,” – Vijay Narsapur, VP & Strategic Business Practice Head – Customer Experience & HRM, Infosys BPM

Step 3: Data-driven problem solving

The answer was found in technology. Smart technology is the need of the hour, and Radhakrishnan believes that it plays an important role in times like this, and a program of this magnitude, where there is high amount of data involved.

Where the calls are coming from? In which districts of the state is call volumes higher than the average? Do call volumes correspond with a spike in cases? Can we predict the next hotspot by analyzing call data?

These are a few of the many questions that Apthamitra seeks to answer through the data collected via the tele-medicine initiative, as well as the application.

“The entire thing is on data, and we have dashboards to just monitor everything,” says Ravishankar P.

Radhakrishnan adds that the data is helpful for the administrative experts who are working on the ground to help citizens of the state.

“This also gives a lot of rich information to the field officials, the district collectors on the ground, and the health and family welfare officials on the ground, to be able to go, meet those high-risk households, and get the best possible treatment early,” says Radhakrishnan.

Additionally, the ability to respond to the needs of the citizens with technology renders it scalable at a larger level.

“What the team has been able to deliver is something that is scalable as a module required to be able to track any sort of outreach from a government standpoint,” notes Nair.

Finally: A gratified and proud A-team

Having successfully brought together Apthamitra in a timely, and efficient manner, the team recalls that the most memorable moments of their journey were the heartening stories from people benefitting from the initiative.

Instances of appreciative people calling back and thanking the efforts that doctors and healthcare workers were putting, made Ravishankar’s days. As of today, Apthamitra has touched lives of over 22,000 people in the state to date, and this number is growing daily. The team responds to an average of 5,000 calls every day.

“What the team has been able to deliver is something that is scalable as a module required to be able to track any sort of outreach from a government standpoint,” – Satish Nair, VP and Business Head, Infosys BPM

“Some really heartwarming stories are coming out. Which is exactly what we wanted,” he says.

With the multitude of things happening around the same time, replete with challenges and tight timelines, Singh is glad to have been a part of the project because it was everybody’s larger interest.

For Karnam, the drive with which the team worked, was extraordinary.

“Everyone is aligned with one single thought, that they want to make this happen. That alignment and that positive energy that we got from all of them, it is commendable,” she says.

For leaders like Narsapur, people from across companies came together because everyone knew that they were doing something really useful that was going to have an impact on society.

“The purpose was larger than ourselves,” says Narsapur.

The spirit and zeal to bring everything together was evident across doctors, developers, and the program managers, says Satish.

Leading this capable team, Radhakrishnan indicates that this close friend is just a phone call, or an application tap away.

“Your ability to reach out to your close friend, Apthamitra, through a phone line, or through a smart app. by filling out the application and then have a trained nurse, or a doctor call you back, is something which gives you a lot of reassurance and comfort,” says Radhakrishnan.

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