Ahmad Al-Hidiq and his elder brother Salah.
HI-TRAC: The author's shorthand for Happiness Index, Infrastructure, Talent, Regulations, Access and Capital. The six pillars that make UAE a great place for a startup. This week, the focus is on Access to medical expertise from around the world.
Healthcare is central to our existence. In 2009, just after one of the worst economic crises in our memory, the healthcare industry in the United States alone, grew by 56 per cent. This is the same year that saw 2.7 million US residents lose their private health insurance coverage (ABC News Feb 12, 2010).
The Mar 2015 PwC report Global health's new entrants: Meeting the world's consumer indicates that new entrants are expected to disrupt the traditional global healthcare market and draw billions from systems in developed and emerging countries. The size of the global healthcare industry according to the same report is $9.59 Trillion.
Another recent study by the GSMA (the global association of mobile network operators) and PwC, datelined July 2013 called The global mHealth market opportunity and sustainable reimbursement models showed that there would be a $23 billion opportunity over the four years from then to provide mobile health services.
The current healthcare system is ripe for massive disruption. There is imbalance across the world in the availability of doctors and hospital beds, with expertise concentrated in a few geographies and absent in others. Countries in South West and Eastern Europe have high physician to population ratios while regions with large populations with growing income such as the Indian sub-continent and Western Africa are at the much lower end of this scale.
There seem to be two distinct trends with multiple variations. One driven by developed markets and the other by emerging markets. The first trend is disruptive to the existing industry and the second is pioneering because basic healthcare is currently not available.
This article is about the disruptive trend.
Although the industry is at $9.59 trillion there is room for organic growth in higher-income countries. More often than not, people do not visit a health-care centre for 'non-urgent' ailments¬-toothaches, tummy upsets, rashes or similar. Long waiting times at clinics, treatments, conditions not covered by insurance, availability of specialised skills and embarrassment are among the many inhibiting factors.
Ahmad Al-Hidiq and his elder brother Salah spotted the opportunity while working with doctors looking to increase their presence in the digital world. The thirty-something Al-Hidiq brothers run a digital media company (www.webmisc.com). They found that doctors respond to social media messages and chats from patients in a relatively unorganized way. Requests come in at all hours and all levels of urgency.
HeyDoc! (www.heydoc.net) was the Al-Hidiqs' solution to the need of both doctors and patients to interact via a more organised forum that was different from the regular hospital-clinic system. It's a simple process to get to a doctor via a mobile application i.e., search for the expertise required, select the physician or advisor, pay and interact. This communication can be through text, voice, video and VR. Plus, HeyDoc! will facilitate diagnostic or monitoring aids if the patients require these. All of this can be managed within an average fee of $40. The brothers are further enhancing the patient-doctor communication to make it more like real-world visits.
The Al-Hidiqs estimates that there are 10 million health-care related outpatient visits annually in the UAE alone and over 65 million in the GCC. In UK, the number is 86 million. To support the growth of HeyDoc!, they are focusing on a framework for each advisory interaction. In addition, the company is working with Insurance Service Providers and targeting corporate customers to provide attractive healthcare benefits to staff. Plus HeyDoc! has started a loyalty programme targeting both doctors as well as patients.
Nurtured by Turn8, the DP accelerator, the HeyDoc! numbers look good. Their very first customer after launch was from Chicago in the US, followed by a Nigerian and then an Austrian. The platform went global instantly, enabling patients and doctors the world over to connect in real-time, 24x7. Time-zone differences are actually an advantage. For the UAE patient seeking advice at the end of the day or an NHS patient in the UK not wanting to wait months for an appointment, this global connectivity works.
Try the app. Definitely a game changer. You may find the right doctor sitting in the Ukraine.
The Al-Hidiqs are of Palestinian origin and grew up in Lebanon. They love sports, football being a favourite, and are avid readers. Their books choices are Success Principles by Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup For The Soul) and J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye. Salinger's book is about a sixteen-year old boy who cannot help getting expelled from school. His is a coming-of-age story. About making sense of hypocrisy, consumerism and phoniness in society. It has, over the years, become a high-school classic and is controversial to say the least. But it is an uplifting story that leaves the reader with more questions than answers.
The writer is a director at Vyashara. He's a digital banking and digital financial services evangelist, practitioner, advisor and consultant. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy. He can be reached at email@example.com.