In March 2020, as the COVID-19 virus spread across India and the nation went into a complete lockdown, a population of over 1.3 billion people was left clueless. There was an urgent need at this hour to contain the spread of the virus and also tend to people’s physical and psychological needs. 

India has over 1.3 billion citizens with a patient-to-doctor ratio of 0.85 as per World Health Organization (WHO) estimate. The outbreak of the pandemic further strained the healthcare services in the country and increased the need for remote healthcare services. 

The idea for the Bengaluru-based startup was initiated in March 2020 when a few entrepreneurs came together to discuss the current situation. The project that started as a WhatsApp group called ‘Founders vs COVID’ soon had 250 volunteers taking up different responsibilities. In June 2020, a group of volunteers from a wide range of sectors, came together to form a not-for-profit platform called StepOne.

According to their website, StepOne can be described as: “We are a collective of creative volunteers, doctors, and technology startups who came together under the umbrella of 'Startup vs COVID' and have joined forces to augment healthcare delivery infrastructure.” The platform is on a mission to blend technology and human resources to provide healthcare access to those who need it the most and also aims to prevent overburdening of our healthcare workers. 

StepOne started its operations in Delhi with 8,000 volunteers including 7,000 medical and 1,000 non-medical volunteers. Today, they have empaneled over 7,000 doctors who speak over 33 languages and 1,000+ volunteers. They are now also working with over 16 states and manage over 30,000 calls on a daily basis. Additionally, StepOne is also empaneled as a partner for teleconsultations on Arogya Setu Mitr, a service on the Arogya Setu app that enables free teleconsultation services. The platform provides an array of vital services, such as:

  • Pre-COVID screening
  • COVID positive triaging
  • Home isolation monitoring
  • Mental Health counselling
  • Plasma donor management
  • Quarantine management

Typically, citizens can call the 24x7 national helpline number from anywhere without any charge. These calls are then returned within an hour from a healthcare expert who then guides them on the further process. StepOne has also introduced a web-based tele-screening bot that interacts with citizens to share their symptoms and then passes on the information to a doctor based on the symptoms. The developers have made sure that the solution can work without a smartphone or internet connectivity or the need to be literate, thus ensuring medical assistance across the spectrum. 

The StepOne platform has been lauded by various states and ministers and its consultations have also been valuable for government health bodies to filter and prioritize the severity of each case. The platform has seen support from several corporate organizations under their ‘CSRseva’ programme. The programme also allows companies to adopt a state or a city. While the platform is looking for new volunteers to join, they make sure they undertake the required training for each new volunteer. In order to volunteer for the platform, please visit their website.

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