There was always a strong case for remote care in India, yet it never took off. Adoption was a challenge, and so was a clear commercial playbook. The pandemic has upended the adoption side of the equation. With fears of contracting the novel coronavirus keeping people indoors and wary of hospitals, telemedicine in India faces its demonetisation moment.

In November 2016, when India made 86% of its currency illegal, payments companies saw windfall gains. Unified Payments Interface ( UPI UPI Unified Payments Interface UPI is a three year old digital payments system used by nearly 100 million people. It rose to popularity because it is swift and easy to use ) ensured digital payments filled the void left by the unavailability of cash. To make the government’s demonetisation of higher denomination notes successful, a starter app called BHIM was built and promoted by the Prime Minister himself. 

One of the volunteer teams behind UPI, iSpirt iSpirt Indian Software Products Industry Round Table iSpirt is a Bengaluru-based think tank set up as an alternative to Indian IT lobby group Nasscom. iSpirt operates through an army of 150 volunteers and is behind promoting India's tech interventions like UPI, Aadhaar , has surfaced again. This time, they’re rallying behind a UPI for healthcare, called the Bharat Health Stack ( BHS BHS ACT Grants Bharat Health Stack is one of the ACT grant recipients Read more ). Except unlike UPI, which was in use before demonetisation, BHS is still in the skunkworks phase. For now, it has an in-app doctor consultation network named Swasth, built by an alliance led by fitness startup Swasth is jostling with other telemed initiatives for prime real estate on Aarogya Setu, a Covid-19 contact tracing app deployed by the government of India. Since its release on 2 April, Aarogya Setu has been downloaded over 100 million times.

On 30 April, five weeks after India amended amended India Legal Live Analysis Of Telemedicine Guidelines Read more  its medical regulations to allow telemedicine practice by doctors, Swasth was launched on a standalone website—AarogyaSetu Mitr. An independent initiative by government think tank Niti Aayog and the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the PM, the site aggregates telemed services. Incidentally, the Aarogya Setu app also links to it.

BHS—and by extension, Swasth—is supported by the Action Covid Team (ACT)*.