Last week, Yourstory.in wrote about an important outcome of our latest deployment in mHealth: overcoming illiteracy as a barrier towards receiving critical health-related information. You can see the original article here.
Finally, Breaking Down the Illiteracy Barrier in mHealth
Mobile Health has come very far, very fast in India. In just the last few years, mHealth initiatives have taken off, including awareness programs, remote monitoring, training for healthcare workers, and diagnostic and treatment support. In fact, PwC recently reported that mHealth will be a Rs 3,000 crore market in India by 2017.
But the industry had hit a wall when it came to the 25% of Indian people who are illiterate, and can’t interact with text or app-based services. This major portion of the population requires a solution catered to their needs, and one that works in the way they are most comfortable interacting with mobile phones. The logical answer is voice, a universal human asset that can be used to ubiquitously access people across India, regardless of their literacy or language skills.
In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, this obstruction to progress is particularly flagrant, as these states have very low literacy levels and significant rural populations with limited access to quality healthcare. Determined to break through this barrier, World Health Partners works with speech technology provider Uniphore Software Systems to deliver an information portal that health workers and clients can utilize through spoken conversation. By having an interactive dialogue with the system in their native language, they are able to learn more about their health and determine the best path for treatment.
“The team at Uniphore is working hand in hand with World Health Partners to develop and deploy solutions that work in low-resource settings, are cost-efficient and user friendly,” said Kamal Talreja, head of Technology at World Health Partners.
The solution is radical but straightforward. For example, when a woman is experiencing abdominal pain, she can call the system and report it. It will then ask her a series of questions about her medical history and other symptoms, getting a complete profile of her condition so that it can prescribe her with the appropriate solution. The Speech Recognition that powers the system resembles a human-like conversation similar to one that the woman would have with a doctor or nurse, making her as comfortable as possible. It’s also personalized to her local language and dialect.
“Numeric literacy in rural areas is much higher than alpha literacy, and sending and receiving messages is not a part of the culture. Therefore, interactive voice recognition solutions are most appropriate for clients living in these areas rural areas, primarily for their ease of use and convenience,” says Talreja. “We are happy to associate with Uniphore for the voice solution, as it is critical to reach the maximum number of people and collect more effective data about our target population.”
For health workers and clients, this service involves nothing more than a phone call. But on the backend, World Health Partners works with Uniphore to create a robust database of information, where they store important information about symptoms, diseases, medicines, and clinic locations.
Ravi Saraogi, Uniphore’s Co-founder and COO, expressed his enthusiasm for supporting World Health Partners in achieving their mission, saying: “Uniphore is proud to partner with innovative organization. We’re confident that using voice will help enable them to scale their impact to people and places in great need.”
About Uniphore: Uniphore Software Systems is the leader in Multi lingual speech-based software solutions. Uniphore’s solutions allow any machine to understand and respond to natural human speech, thus enabling humans to use the most natural of communication modes, speech, to engage and instruct machines. Uniphore operates from its corporate headquarters at IIT Madras Research Park, Chennai, India and has sales offices in Middle East (Dubai, UAE) as well as in Manila, Philippines.