Atmanirbhar Bharat: How healthtech startups can help Modi govt scale Covid vaccination drive across India

Anthill Partner, Devang Mehta’s views on how Healthtech startups have a seminal opportunity in aiding and facilitating the vaccination drive in India.

Covid clearly has dramatically impacted, in a largely negative way, economic activity across India. We have seen literally every sector (including Healthcare, where I am actively involved with startups) get blindsided by the sudden and ravaging impacts of the pandemic. However, true to the saying, every cloud has a silver lining, and in every crisis lies an opportunity. Healthtech startups have a seminal opportunity in aiding and facilitating the vaccination drive in India. Plenty of opportunities will be in healthcare IT, logistics, connecting various datasets, social networks for trusted information sharing, and in areas related to these.

IT systems (and accompanying apps) will play a central role in creating and maintaining information related to vaccinations: enlisting and enumerating people for vaccination, keeping track of the progression of dose intake during the process, as well as using national IDs like PAN and Aadhar to uniquely identify individuals and their participation drive. This, firstly, will ensure, that priority doses are delivered to the most vulnerable and critical sections of the population. Second, combined with mapping applications (and the policies around these have been greatly liberalized as I write this piece), startups will ensure that a coordinated vaccination campaign will harmonize the needs of herd immunity with geospatial data; and will further, through the use of data interfaces and connectors, will synchronize with information on people with co-morbid conditions and other data pertinent to assessing the risk to Covid.

IT could play a very important role in ensuring the genuineness of vaccines and quickly detecting and flagging counterfeit. This could easily span the entire gamut of the security apparatus: detecting counterfeits, preventing their use in patients, helping track the source of aberrant activity, and using social media as well as traditional news sources to alert the larger population to the dangers posed by fraudulent doses.

Startups can also play a central role in fine-tuning the logistics inherent in the seamless delivery of vaccinations across the country. The logistics space in India has undergone tremendous innovation on account of businesses widely adopting deep technology tools to address transport challenges. A much-quoted Economic Survey predicts this logistics space to grow to a staggering $215 Billion by 2020. The IP and best practices built as a result of the growth in this space can easily be leveraged to ensure seamless and efficient delivery of vaccinations to every nook and corner of India in a timely manner. Layers of AI/ML could predict when vaccines would run out of a certain center, city, or state and reinforcements could be ordered in a timely fashion.

Startups can, and most likely will, help engender a lot of social and information sharing activity as the vaccination drive begins in full gusto.

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