Chatbot Design intervention for women’s health in India
This project seeks to approach women’s health-related problems and propose solutions through ai chatbot.
The goal was to create an AI assistant that can help women living in rural and non-metro cities find information and remedial solutions to women’s health. And I thought by straight away thinking of the Ai chatbot I would miss out on the problem and relevant solutions.
To understand more about the problem I tried to define the problem and develop an understanding of the situation. Also, there was a requirement of making the solution practical and easy to adopt. So, I thought it could be an ecosystem where that chatbot could be a touchpoint as we have to ensure adaptability and through an omnichannel UX approach the problem could be tackled.
The Problem (Menstruation related)
While defining the problem I did secondary research on the types of problems related to female health. There was a range of problems such as breast cancer, menopause, mensuration, STD, etc. There is a lot of information scattered over the internet and being a male I find this task challenging my empathy. To bring the right action I thought of selecting a single problem and exploring that in-depth, although the ecosystem will address the different female problems and it could have experts to build that according to the problems. I was thinking of selecting either breast cancer or mensuration problems. And I later decided to go for that mensuration-related problem because there is a sense of taboo and shame involved in this problem.
Menstruation related physical symptoms
Every female is different and so are their periods. Few experience painless periods, others experience is painful. They use different approaches in that phase as pads, tampons, cups, etc. Also, there are date-related issues few experience early and few experience late cycles. There are period-related concerns also the identification of bad periods. Often bad periods are accompanied by hormonal imbalance, mood swings, body swelling, vomiting, etc. There’s a concern over blood thickness, color, consistency, and time duration. Often times females ignore these difficulties for months and years which results in more complexities as in PCOD, PCOS, conceiving issues, etc.
There’s a temple of Kamkhya Devi in Guwahati which signifies menstruation. Also, there is a festival of Raja in Odisha which celebrates womanhood. The term Raja came from the Sanskrit word ‘Rajas’ which means menstruation and when a woman menstruates, she is called ‘Rajaswala’ or a menstruating woman, and in medieval times the festival became more popular as an agricultural holiday marking the worship of Bhudevi, who is the wife of Lord Jagannath. This evidence ensures that symbolic messaging was embedded in the culture to take menstruation with a positive connotation. Something wrong has happened between the times and that could have created the taboo notion.
Often I have heard females are not allowed to visit the temple of touch idols during that phase and are often termed impure during that phase. This would have come out of the wrong perception of things. I have heard that temples used to be at top of hills and in the forest-like areas there were wild animals. Females at that time are most vulnerable due to the smell of blood and physical weakness they might get in trouble with wild animals during their visit to temples. That could be a reason for abstinence from visiting temples. And humans make rituals out of anything, it could be possible people forgot the reason, took that lesson and made a ritual out of it, and to fill the reason other things such as shame and taboo came in. It reminds me of the concept of Chinese whisper where things get exaggerated at the end. And the emotion of shame is here. This is a problem where it needs to be addressed.
Also in rural areas, they don’t feel comfortable approaching others for information. Old-age females have limited knowledge based on their experiences, male members and friends are a bit clueless about this. Also if the female has a partner and if they are responsible while being clueless they might visit the expert or in a worst-case scenario, if he is avoidant, he might ignore this. Which results in not initiating the inquiry of relevant information.
Also in many families, the decision-making powers are being held by senior citizens. And sometimes they are a bit sensitive and stubborn over things. Which creates the wrong feeling around the concern.
There’s a sense of taboo surrounding the topic of mensuration. Females are not comfortable sharing their problems. Also, it’s a highly uncomfortable topic to be discussed with a male. In schools, females are educated regarding menstruation while removing males. And males are a bit less informed on these topics. Also in my personal experience, I got enlightened about this topic through my partners when I grew up. Also, I enquired a few male friends about their experience with information exposure, they too got an understanding through their partners. This brings the question of can the ecosystem could serve men as well. As in if there is a single father who wants to handhold her daughter in this journey or a son who wants to take care of the mother during menopause. There’s an invisible wall for men to tackle in this situation and they remain uninformed due to societal reasons.
Arms of the ecosystem for problem-solving
I am visualizing this ecosystem entity as an NGO-like entity that stands with a noble value and presents its different tools to deal with the problems in the digital domain with an app. Few problems and their proposed solutions:
- Females are afraid to approach others about their menstruation-related problems. This is where the chatbot can add value by giving a humane experience while helping.
- There is a lack of information that is relevant. So there is a need for awareness and it can be done through blogs. These blogs could come in regional languages to make them easy to consume. Also, the chatbot could give them references while proposing solutions to bring confidence over the solution. It could act as a navigated gateway for making the relevant detailed information accessible. Also, there could be a feature to ask questions so that the database can update on information based on the user’s concerns and that bank will grow eventually.
- Sometimes females need to discuss things with experts. Only the medical professionals could understand the whole situation and propose relevant actions. There could be a 15 min window for the user to access the discussion where the user can put discuss their problem anonymously. The slots will be given according to the availability of the doctors as they could be paid or volunteered.
- Through the passage of time, there’s a build-up of negative perception of the menstruation-related concerns on the root level. There’s a need to bring positive perception through the right messaging. It can be done by awareness campaigns. The polio drop campaign was an interesting way of addressing the problem as at that time in rural areas senior citizens had decision-making powers and Amitabh Ji’s presence added value to the campaign as people connected with the angry young man persona in the campaigns. The intent is to bring positive messaging while understanding the sensitivity of the topic as any wrong way would offend the orthodox senior citizens and it needs to ensure that they are being sold over the idea.
Key Objectives and features of the chatbot
- The chatbot is to provide relevant information such as remedies etc regarding the situation.
- Guide the users to relevant information in the information bank(blogs).
- Gather concerns from users to update the information bank.
- Help users to get a slot for expert advice by doctors.
- Provide information on women’s health.
I am assuming that this ecosystem is being built under Unicef. Chatbot for the ecosystem is going to become the touchpoint of the user. There’s a need for the establishment of a relationship between the ecosystem and the user. To establish that connection I feel Meena was an interesting character by Unicef it established a connection while standing for girl empowerment. If we visualize Meena as a 27-year-old mature person then it would be interesting to see how that character has grown. Now she is wise and experienced with dealing with things with her empathy skills. Also, females will feel subconsciously connected with her and it would be easier for them to share their concerns.
Zomato’s chat experience has evolved. At first, there was a customer executive at the other end of the chat who used to help the users. Now they have a chatbot-driven approach where we get clearly defined directions and they can churn out the information out of users then the executive could enter and solve the issue. This can help in establishing that gateway for 15 min window. Meena will help the user put information through pre-defined responses, if things work out she will suggest relevant solutions, lead to an information bank for detailed info as a guide, and help book the sessions.
There’s a need to have three voices for the Meena based on the type of users:
- Big Sister for adolescent girls. Adolescent girls would be uncomfortable in their situation while having a feeling about whom to talk to. When Meena will approach them in an empathetic way and give them comfort. And then address the situation. The intent here is to make the adolescent girls comfortable as they are not familiar with these new changes and are not comfortable discussing this with their parents, family, etc.
- Responsible expert for mid-aged women. The mid-aged women won’t be reaching the chatbot for comfort. They will be seeking the right guidance coming from an expert as they are not sure about medicine, tests, etc.
- Like a nurse for men. Men would be coming to develop an understanding of their female relative’s situation as they are clueless about the symptoms, and approaches to the problem. A nurse-like tonality would be right for them in order to empower them with information.
The target group is from tier 2 and 3 towns, and villages. India has a vast set of languages based on geographical locations with different accents. Aged and mid-aged women try to establish conversation in their regional languages. Language connects people and a multilingual approach can be effective. And Hindi could be used as a common language. There can be variations in accents based on the locations. Also, it would be much more effective if this voice UI can be accessed by helpline number, I am not sure about the technical limitations but I feel somehow downloading an app to use could create a hassle for aged women in the village also than keypad phones could access Meena. Also while having conversations we use fillers like hmm, han, thik hai etc with pauses in sentences the Ai can be trained to give a human-like experience.
Personally, I found the assignment very interesting as being a male this assignment challenged my empathy for solving female-related problems. Also, I had conversations with one female friend(to understand the female’s issues) and one male friend(to understand the male’s stance on female-related issues) which helped me to empathize. Still, work is left. I thought of making user stories, flows, and the conversation of both chat n voice for Meena of father and young girl users.