How eldercare startup EMOHA is empowering senior citizens to manage and cope with COVID-19 crisis
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the two groups of people who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 include the elderly (above 60 years old); and those with underlying medical conditions.
With the elderly being a high-risk group for COVID-19,, a startup that is reimaging eldercare in India with its virtual community offering, began to closely evaluate how they could step in to help them cope and prevent the spread of the disease. The Gurugram-based startup was founded in 2019.
“Some of the key questions that we had to find answers for were - how to keep elders at home while ensuring they have supplies of essentials, how to help elders stay in touch with clinical help, especially during emergencies, how to ensure they have access to authentic elder-specific information, how to keep them engaged while being confined to their homes,” shares Saumyajit Roy, Co-founder and CEO, EMOHA.
According to several reports, 48 percent of the elderly in India stay with their spouse, while 24 percent stay alone, thereby making it more challenging for them to manage the daily grind amid restrictions imposed by the lockdown.
In mid-March, prior to the announcement of the lockdown, as a startup in the elderly care space, EMOHA had decided to start building a technology powered community-based response mechanism to help elders across the city, irrespective of whether they were part of their paid customers or not.
When the team explored its readiness to help the elderly in the National Capital Region (NCR), the startup’s home turf, it realised that it would be impossible for the team of 70 to manage the needs of elderly, who were spread across hundreds of micro localities.
According to their internal estimate, at least 6,000 volunteers were needed to ensure the elderly stayed at home, and that volunteers remained hyper-local without violating government social distancing norms and travelling only walking distance.
While the startup began working on strategising a solution, the lockdown was announced. To quickly address the situation, the startup launched #MissionEldersFirst, all within a span of just 48 hours after the lockdown came into effect, leveraging their cutting-edge technology backbone.
The relief effort saw EMOHA reinventing its on-roll workforce to oversee a massive volunteer base and extending its 24/7 helpdesk and elder app to become a gateway for elders to stay safe and secure in their homes. It also put together a four-point solution for elders on its technology architecture while getting government support and endorsement along with campaign awareness in partnership with Hindustan Times.
The four-point tech solution included features to assist the elderly and deliver daily essentials like medicines, groceries, etc., through the channel partners and verified community volunteers, online access to a panel of doctors for consultation, 24/7 emergency coordination with nearby hospitals and ambulance providers along with source of authentic elder specific information and online interactive engagement programmes for emotional support and well-being.
These services are being made available through its 24x7 helpline number and can also be accessed through its app and website. These services can also be availed on what is India’s most comprehensive elder app, exclusively designed keeping in mind elder’s needs.
In addition to this, the app also provides access to a senior citizen’s health records, blogs on relevant topics, exclusive offers and discounts, access to events, and also enables them to connect with other senior citizens.
Quick on the feet
Sharing how the startup was able to quickly put together #MissionEldersFirst to address the solution, Saumyajit shares,
“Emoha’s App, our tech platform, our systems, training, quality processes, have all been operational for over six months now. During this period, we have delivered 13,000 care calls, and over 2,500 days of care while being in operations in NCR Delhi. This experience, coupled with the seven founding team members with expertise across clinical, logistics, technology and administration w.r.t eldercare, was instrumental in helping us strategise and quickly think on our feet.”
The startup mapped the city of New Delhi into 600 pockets to align with the Prime Minister’s call to maintain social distancing, and have volunteers travel by road only inside hyper-local communities. The tech team worked on the EMOHA’s responder app to upgrade and tweak it to suit community volunteer needs and launched it in five days.
Overnight, their quality, training, and technology team took up the challenge of training team members from across domains, from finance, to operations to manage care calls and coordinate the relief effort. The HR head took the nodal charge to recruit volunteers and the marketing team ran campaigns to recruit community responder volunteers. Meanwhile, their sales and operations team got divided into regional officers dividing operations of sub-regions of Delhi and ensuring that elder requests get the full spectrum support.
Within 15 days of going live with #MissionEldersFirst, they onboarded 3,500+ elders on the programme while 2,500+ volunteers were enlisted and trained. “#MissionEldersFirst was well received across the capital,” shares Saumyajit.
With a working model at hand, the startup is now gearing up for a pan-India rollout. It is working on building more alliances with corporates and government bodies. “Ecosystem alliances will be a critical aspect to expand our services. It is important to have close partnerships with government administration who are playing such a noble and critical role today,” says Saumyajit.
“Our brand name EMOHA not only stands for ‘Emotional Happiness’, but is also an anagram of ‘a home’, and reflects the philosophy that elders love to stay at home. Social isolation is nothing new for elders, and it is therefore no surprise that our offerings were always designed to take care of elders while they remain where they love the most - their home. COVID-19 only dramatically enhanced the relevance of extending our services to all elders who were suddenly far more vulnerable than they were ever before,” Saumyajit adds.
Re-imagining eldercare in the times of COVID-19
“MissionEldersFirst is not just a campaign but drives our central value system. Through this, we hope to help bring a large number of community members together, and also hope this will provide an opportunity for people to understand the needs of elders and take steps towards making their elders secure and energised even in the post COVID era.”
Observing the success of the volunteer programme, EMOHA plans to continue it beyond COVID-19 related use cases. That said, the startup’s flagship feature will remain their App, which will continue to be an area for increased innovation and focus, says the founder. “We will continue to add specialised holistic membership plans for the Emoha community for specialised needs and requirements.”
Saumyajit points out a stark reality of how the COVID-19 crisis has forced all of us to experience the type of world that elders have been living in for decades.
“From the struggles of managing life at home without adequate support, to feelings of loneliness and social isolation; to managing emergencies without a comprehensive national helpline, COVID-19 has humbled us to experience life from the eyes of an elder,” he signed off.