People of Bangladesh are facing severe healthcare-related problems. COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on them. Bangladesh's healthcare system is highly vulnerable at the moment. People are facing problems finding proper treatment for them. They are running around from one hospital to another to get treatment. They go to one hospital & then come to know that all the activities of the hospital are suspended. Sometimes the hospital authorities ask for additional documents. But as the patients don't know anything about those requirements, they can't get the treatment. The patients who need ICU treatments are highly affected in this situation. They don't know in which hospital they need to go for getting the ICU facilities. Thus, they post in Facebook groups or in their wall & ask for help. Friends of the patient share the post to get attention from others who might be able to help the one in need. So, judging from all these aspects, we came up with an idea to help our people.
What it does
To use all the services that are currently available in our country, the users need data. Without data, they will not be able to get the information they seek. So, we have come up with a solution in the form of a Chatbot named “Remedi”. We are passing all the information that a user may need in this pandemic period through Facebook Messenger. As Messenger service is free in our country for the mobile sim operators, the users can get the necessary information without buying any data packages. They just need to turn 'On' their data connection & after getting into Messenger, they can get their desired information by tapping on one of the options of our Chatbot. We are also trying to broadcast the queries that a user might face in times of emergency. For example -
If a person wants to know about the available hospitals with ICU facilities or wants a blood donor who can donate B+ blood, in regular times, they post on Facebook & ask for help. Whereas now, with our chatbot, anyone can ask for help in it. Our chatbot will store the input information of our users & broadcast the news with all the subscribers of our page. The chatbot will, therefore, act as a bridge connecting both the parties - who needs help & who wants to help. We are highly concerned about the user’s security & privacy. So we will only provide the contact information of the user when a person tells us that he can help the other user who needed the help. At first, we will only broadcast the message to all users without providing the contact informations.
Our chatbot will also facilitate the users with getting the necessary information in an emergency without having any data packages activated.
For authenticity, we are providing the users with information that we have gathered from reliable sources. We are working with doctors & medical professionals to provide users with valid information as stopping the spread of fake information is our top priority.
We are using Facebook's comment acquisition system to categorize users into different blood groups. If a user needs O+ blood, we are requesting our page users having O+ blood to help the needy person. We are using a menu & a quick reply feature so that the enquirers need not type anything, just pressing the buttons will be sufficient to get their job done. We are building the system in our native language so that people from all aspects of Bangladesh can understand and avail the features of our Bot.
How we built it
We built it with Manychat which is a tool to build messenger bots with various features such as: Quick replies, adding buttons, images etc. We also used OCR-"Optical Character Recognition" to convert our images and posters to texts for the general convenience of people having issues while loading pictures.
Challenges we ran into
The system we have used to build has both free & pro versions. As we’re currently using the free version, we have to save & broadcast the user queries manually which is sometimes troublesome. Also, we are facing problems gathering all the data & integrating those into our system. So, we’ll need volunteers to work for the project in the future to keep it dynamic. It was seen that in free messenger mode, sometimes the users were unable to see the images which were sent from our bot. Thus we have added “Show Text” option along with the images for users convenient.
Accomplishments that we’re proud of
A few days ago, one of my friend’s relatives was sick. He needed ICU related information as to which hospital might have an ICU facility. He posted in some Facebook groups asking for help. But as it was night, he was not getting any information from anywhere. Then I forwarded him our bot link & told him to search in it & he would see some contacts there. He could also call those numbers & ask for help. Therefore, he used our bot & dialed some of the numbers. After a while, he was able to get the information he needed & took his relative to a hospital where indeed there was an ICU available. Later on, he thanked me for the help. I as well as my teammate felt very delighted at that moment.
What we learned
We learned that the purpose of life is not to be happy alone. It is to be useful & help others. It gives immense pleasure to help people in their need. We also learned various techniques to manage pages and chatbots which might come in handy on our future endeavors.
What's next for “Remedi”
We want to integrate “Remedi” with external APIs with an intent that it can fetch more pieces of information from different sites & the users can see that information without any data connection. For that, we require some financial aid to improve the full system. We are also trying to integrate our chatbot with USSD & SMS features so that users not owning a smartphone don’t get deprived of using our platform.