Health Care still remains a big issue in Qatar and in the GCC. One of the primary reasons is lack of access to relevant healthcare information. Residents in Qatar have long-complained about finding a good doctor since there is no proper way to do that. People struggle with finding a great doctor who is praised by several people in Qatar. People tend to spend lot of time and money going from one physician to another until they settle down with one that they like. Especially, for new expats in the country who do not have friends and family to rely on to get doctor recommendation.
The problem is also attributed to not knowing much about doctors’ background such as their education and credentials that can help build trust and good relationship with the doctor.
One of the most common complaints among people is the long waiting times at the clinics, due to high demand for good health care in private clinics in Qatar. People have to wait for several hours at the walk-in clinic to be seen by the doctor.
To solve this problem, a team of 4 Carnegie Mellon University Qatar graduates/students launched Meddy, an online platform to help people find great doctors in Qatar based on user reviews. It’s aimed to help people make informed health decisions based on knowledge, not chance.
Meddy allows users to see Doctor profiles where they can find background information about the doctor such as his/her picture, specialization, scope of practice, educational background, languages he/she speaks etc. All this information is aimed to help people get insights about their physician so that they feel comfortable being treated by him/her.
Users can also find Google map clinic locations of the doctor to help them find the best doctor closest to their home. They can also use their smartphones to conveniently navigate to the clinic, since navigating around the city is still a challenge due to lack of proper street names.
Moreover, people can find what other people think about a particular doctorbased on their comments and likes/dislikes. Based on that people can decide if they want to see a particular doctor or not. They can alsopost their ownreview sharingpersonalexperience visiting the doctor and help others learn from it.
The website also shows estimates of average waiting time at the clinic for walk in checkups, since there are quite a few clinics in Qatar who don’t accept appointments beforehand and people have to wait for hoursat the clinic to be seen by the doctor.
Whileworking on Meddy, the team faced different kinds of challenges. They varied from technical to business to organizational. While building the product, they overcame most of the technical challenges with help from the CMU community and rapid self-learning. They claim that there is no denying that CMU taught them to be good programmers in the last couple of years. However, launching a technology startup and running a live website is a little bit different and there are some things that they had to learn outside of or after college. But then again, isn’t that the whole point of college? To teach you how to be a lifelong learner. Also collecting data for the website was no trivial task since there is no centralized database in Qatar.
Once they finished the first version of the website, and made it live, their next challenge was acquiring users. This was not easy, as getting the word out and making people aware of the value of something you have built is not easy. To aid the process they set targets for themselves. They achieved this by using various marketing tools such as Facebook. Since they don’t have any funding at this early stage, they had to pay all the expenses from their own pockets such as the cost of running servers, software, hardware, marketing etc. Right now this is not much of a problem for them, but as they expand their business in the future, and embark on a more aggressive marketing and user acquisition strategy, they will require external funding for which they will talk with Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors.
They also feel that the startup scene in this region is still years behind Silicon Valley in terms of people’s mentality and attitudes. Even though this region has a lot of money, technologically it’s way behind the US and it lacks people who are early embracers and adopters. Although the Meddy team acknowledges that they can’t change the thinking of the entire region, they believe and hope, that they can improve access to and quality of the health care in this region.
Currently, the website has around 200 doctors from 23 different specializations, speaking over 30 different languages. It allows people to select doctors based on their language preference to serve such a diverse population in Qatar. The team is adding new doctors every day.
To date, the website has almost 20,000 hits from over 2000 unique users. More than 100 users have registered on the website and are writing reviews about the doctors they have visited in the past.
Based on high user demand, the founders plan to have Health Insurance information available on the website, so people can select doctors and clinics that are supported under their health insurance provider. Currently, they are adding the information about doctors themselves. In the next coming months they would allow doctors to add and modify profiles to increase engagement with the doctors. Arabic language support and a smartphone app is also underway.
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