After the limited success of the government-launched Aarogya Setu app, the private sector has jumped on the self-testing bandwagon. Apollo Hospitals Group has tied up with telecom operator Airtel to offer a new feature in Airtel's existing Airtel Thanks app that enables customers to check their COVID-19 profile. The test, which was developed by Apollo Hospitals under its Apollo 24/7 platform, is developed through AI-based technologies that allow users to assess their COVID-19 risk profile by answering a few simple questions on any of the devices (smartphones, laptops and desktops).
After generating the risk score, the app suggests the next possible action to users which includes free online consultation on Apollo 24/7 platform, dialing non-prescriptive helpline from the app, self-care tips, social distancing guidelines and other crucial steps that have been suggested by key agencies like MoHFW (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare) and WHO (World Health Organisation). Apollo 24/7 is a free helpline service launched this year by Apollo Hospitals to offer free consultation from over 100 Apollo doctors answering questions and clearing doubts.
In an official statement, Shobana Kamineni, executive vice chairperson of Apollo Hospitals Group said, "Apollo 24/7 truly empowers individuals to protect their health. With the free COVID-19 scan AI tool, Airtel customers across India will get validated data and Apollo's resources to take care of their health, well-being and safety. Our association with Airtel should help us Touch more lives."
Though the service would be limited to Airtel Thanks users as of now, more such apps are expected to be launched by other telecom operators. At the end of December 2019, Airtel had over 327 million subscribers, but the number of Airtel Thanks subscribers would be much lower.
It may be noted that the government has already launched Aarogya Setu app that is aiming to track the progress of COVID-19 in the country through the users, and help them know if they have come into contact with a positive case or a suspect by using location-based tech. This app, which has been downloaded over 10 million times - too small for a country of approximately 1.35 billion people - also gives users a tool to do self-assessment of their risk profile.
The Apollo-Airtel testing tool is unique in some sense. It allows users to be aware of the evolution of the situation in the country. It also alerts patients at risk and falling under the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) approved testing parameters to be guided to the authorised testing centers for a thorough COVID-19 test. Though the tele-consulting service doesn't claim to fully replace the need for an interaction with a doctor in the real world.
Prior to this, Apollo Hospitals had tied up with hospitality chain Oyo to provide isolation rooms in Oyo-operated hotels under the medical supervision in six cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata) as part of Apollo's Project Stay I (Stay Isolated). Under that partnership, Oyo would be offering sanitised beds and facilities in certain COVID-19 exclusive hotels it has identified within its network in the proximity of Apollo Hospitals for the purposes of self-quarantine and isolation for suspected COVID-19 patients. Apollo claims to have been offering over 2,000 quarantined hotel room in addition to 600 dedicated hospital beds to fight the coronavirus outbreak.