The tale of how I was brought to the topic of women's health
Good day, dear habravchane! My name is Ilya Pestov and I am the founder of two bots for women's health: Obobot is an assistant for monitoring the menstrual cycle and Mamabot is a virtual assistant for monitoring pregnancy. And this is a story about how, having nothing to do with gynecology, I came to the conclusion that I can tell a lot more about a certain element of the female body than the most experienced geek about his favorite Linux distribution.
How it all started
I started to make up the first sites of the year in 2007, but it so happened that among my close circle there were more representatives from the medical field than information technologies. And the possible intersection of these areas was curiously discussed by us about 5 years ago. True, they were talks about futurism, and not dialogues on the essence of the approaches to creating a medical company.
You do not need to be a visionary to say that in the near future, thanks to the synergy of various devices, his personal doctor will appear on everyone’s phone. However, in no case do I consider that the profession is becoming obsolete. Moreover, I very much doubt that in my lifetime robots will replace a surgeon or any other physician whose treatment consists in physical intervention in human health.
But as far as analysis is concerned, protein neural networks have already been defeated before the machine in a contest for processing huge amounts of information. The amount of data on the body that is collected by a wearable device for a month does not fit into any medical book, which is usually enough to list a person’s health in his entire life. And even more so this amount of data does not fit in the mind of a single doctor.
True, all these ambiguous data in their structure do not always correspond to the norms of medical practice. You heard that the electronic clock of one apple company learned to predictheart attack? But the medical community is skeptical of such claims, because the cardiovascular system and its research methods are much more complicated than they seem. By the way, doctors also have complaints about the new ECG function . And there are a lot of such contradictions between innovations and evidence-based medicine.
It turns out that all of the above is only a foundation for the future, which have little to do with the harsh reality. But what can we do today? What medical processes can be automated in such a conservative area of public health? The answer, I think, is one — therapy and preventive medicine.
Why are pregnant?
This choice is due to the fact that to betray the whole range of possible human diseases of taxonomy is an impossible task without a board of doctors and multimillion-dollar budgets. Only children, or rather pediatrics, is a separate layer of knowledge. And it is impossible to “donate” something, say, to skip the topic of gastroenterology in order to deal with cardiology in more detail.
In my case, it is possible to approach the therapy only through a narrower segment, and as such, it was decided to choose pregnant women. First: it is only women. Secondly: pregnancy is a specific period. Thirdly: I want to quote the famous pediatrician, Doctor of Medical Sciences Vorontsov Igor Mikhailovich:
Preparing for pregnancy, its planning and protection, are the most promising and effective technology for health protection.And indeed, the health of each begins in the womb. And now I propose to think about the following. You all know what growth hacks and UX manipulations are.
So, if the color of the “buy” button in an online store can affect the conversion into sales and increase the company's turnover by hundreds of thousands of dollars, what result can come from recommending a visit to the doctor or not afford to drink a glass of wine during pregnancy? Such even the most minimal conversion will be the main achievement of my life.Speaking of wine, many believe that it is completely innocuous being in the position. However, the fetus feeds on the same as the mother. From a glass of wine he will get only a small part, which nevertheless can lead to fatal consequences. And who in their right mind would pour a glass of wine to the baby? Moreover, some pregnant women are convinced that it is impossible to stop smoking, because stress for the mother will adversely affect the child.
And regarding the visit to the doctors, I will say that most of us turn to the doctor only at the very last moment, when they really feel the need for it. However, this phenomenon is observed not only in Russia, but also in many other countries. Example of the reverse: the life expectancy of the British for 2 generations increasedfrom ~ 60 to ~ 80. On average, a citizen of the United Kingdom visits a doctor 6 times a year, although a decade ago this value was 3 times less.
Being engaged in marketing Statsbot I deeply believed in the concept of the interactive interface. And nearly two million dollars that attracted the founders of Statsbot in the valley favored this faith. Yes, HYIP slept on bots. Many high-profile projects have sunk into oblivion. But the reason for this is not the inferiority of the concept itself, but the excessive desire to adapt the functionality that is quite good for itself in the “gooey” version and did not require any rethinking under the interactive interface.
What from the very beginning was meant by the uncomplicated name “Mamabot” could not be expressed in the graphical user interface, because the multi-level nesting and impersonal number of checkboxes in the forms is obviously a bad decision. Application for pregnant women seemed to me only a bot. But all these arguments were based on the most important thing - the understanding that the wife of my close friend works as an obstetrician-gynecologist in a maternity hospital. Indeed, without such a person, my plans lost all meaning.
Anya immediately agreed to take part in my plan. One and a half months after our conversation, she handed me an A4 album with a lot of sheets covered in small underlining on both sides. And these were only possible scenarios for handling common complaints (nausea, heartburn, shortness of breath, swelling, dizziness, etc.) in pregnant women. It is time to think about who can reproduce this information in the code.
Among the small number of familiar developers, everyone worked in good companies, some even not in Russia. They had families and had no time for adventures. Besides, I understood that my fantasies are limited by the capabilities of the Telegram Bot API. Therefore, I did not have a clear idea of what Mamabot should look like. It just had to figure out in the process. But who are the professionals interested in the project without a structured technical task? Having spent about a month waiting for those who promised to try, I decided that I would do everything myself.
At one time, I considered myself a good front-end. I had regular customers from Canada, my technical digests collected tens of thousands of views on Habré, and my physiognomy every month appeared in one section of the Hacker magazine. I even remembered that I had an English-language blog about web development, which brought me about $ 100 a month from advertising. However, I had no practical experience in backend. And although NodeJS seemed more familiar to me, I chose Python as the programming language for Mamabot. Because according to my polls in thematic chats, he was more popular among botovodov.
I have not read any professional literature. I was looking for the information I needed as I received questions: “How to launch a bot for Telegrams?”, “How to process requests?”, “How to make entries in Postgres?”. A few months later, Anya and my other friends among doctors saw the first version of @mamabot, and my classmate Anya, who also works as an obstetrician-gynecologist, also joined our project.
Our offspring was continuously improved. New information was added, existing scripts were detailed. The most difficult task besides the classification of medical knowledge was the implementation of the initiation of dialogue, which I did not see in any other bot. All virtual assistants perform the function of request-response and in fact are edakimi CLI utilities, only in a different guise. And after a mamabot user complains of nosebleeds, after a while, he may wonder about the person’s well-being and reproduce a certain dialogue scenario.
Mamabot does not treat and does not recommend any drugs, because today it is not possible either legally or technically. Mamabot seeks to instill a culture of visiting doctors. Its functionality is focused on collecting anamnesis, and its main task is to refer a pregnant woman to a medical institution in a timely manner to professionals, not allowing the thought of autotherapy.
For the first time in public about our project, I told on my channel Groks in mid-summer of this year. Following my requests, Mamabot was mentioned in several thematic channels related to medtech. Bot added a few hundred people. It is time to wait. We needed to test the bot for system errors and monitor user behavior.
A significant drop in involvement from an undeservedly great attention from men did not bother us at all. But a similar situation was with women. And this has already cast doubt on all the prospects of our work. I began to communicate with representatives of the fair sex. There were indeed pregnant women among them, but most girls added a bot for the future, so to speak, to their bookmarks. And I realized only then how stupid I would be if I allowed myself to carelessly think about our small percentages of almost two million women from the CIS (it was exactly that number of pregnant women in 2017).
It's one thing to target advertisements for women and completely different things for pregnant women. But when looking for pregnant women in Mamabote, not pregnant women remain and we do not interact with them! Glaring negligence on our part! What to captivate them? We needed a playground, a beachhead, if you will, for those ladies who were pleased to add Mamabot to their contact list.
We thought about creating a personal assistant to control the menstrual cycles and the fertile period. Found even such an English-speaking bot for Facebook Messenger - Bearhug . But with 28,000 likes, it was just a pitiful similarity to the corresponding native iOS and Android applications. I asked myself a question - is it possible to bring a full-fledged female calendar into the bot format for Telegram? It turned out that you can.
“What did you study with Telegram buttons?” You ask reasonably. And I agree that there is no advantage to a full-fledged GUI in what he saw. But this is the women's calendar in your favorite messenger, which does not require the installation of third-party applications. Any reminders and notifications in it will look more ergonomic. This is still a conversational interface that allows you to simulate a conversation with a gynecologist. And most importantly - more than 1000 women already use Obobots (sic!).
We are currently working on dialogue scripts in Ovobot. Recently, Anya and I volunteered to help El, who works as a doctor in Israel. I hope our bots will begin to absorb the international standards of medicine. In the same Israel, everything is strictly regulated and representatives of the health sector work only in accordance with existing protocols.
Speaking of me, then all this information, of course, can not pass by my head. And I learn not only new words like candida, but I can answer what a shugaring is and whether it is harmful for pregnant women. And about tampons, pads or menstrual cups, I now generally can make a review no worse than Wylsacom with the pluses and minuses of each device. The doctor can at least parry that he is a creature without gender in his profession. I have nothing to hide. All this is ridiculous, but I believe that we are creating what is useful.
Thank you so much for your assistance to Anya and Nikita Nikitin, Ana Knysh, Ale and Gleb Sulim, Roma Kotin, Ana Zhvakina, Anton Razumov. I hope our place on this place is not over, but is just beginning. Thank you and dear reader for the attention to my writing!