Saudi Arabia has a shortage of healthcare startups, throwing the sector wide open for companies like online medical platform Sihatech.
Sihatech was launched in early 2016 by Ahmed Al-Badr, Kuwaiti doctor Musaed Al-Marzouki, and Riad Bou Jaoudeh, with seed funding from an undisclosed technology company.
The platform allows users to search for medical services and professionals, as well as booking appointments and finding health insurance.
A Wamda Research Lab report on MENA’s healthcare startups found that the sector was growing fast in MENA, but while 90 percent of healthcare startups were established in the past five years, Saudi Arabia had the fewest.
Such services are nowadays widespread in the region. In Saudi Arabia there is Cura for online consultations; there’s booking platform Abidoc in Kuwait; Doctoruna for research, bookings and online consultations in the UAE; and Meddy for research and bookings in Qatar.
Sihatech CEO Ahmed Al-Badr said their point of difference was the insurance element, where patients can ask their insurer whether they cover the healthcare provider he or she chooses.
For users it also follows up on the treatment cycle, starting from the patient’s checkup to reminding them to take medication, and lets both patients and healthcare providers rate each other. For businesses it provides revenue cycle management software and cloud storage.
Al-Badr said they currently worked with 200 hospitals and 200 clinics across Saudi Arabia, such as the Dallah Hospital and the Kingdom Hospital, whilst benefiting from partnerships with Nitco, Waseel and STC.
“[Thanks to] our experience and previous knowledge, we were able to talk to large hospitals and insurance companies and we got positive reactions,” Al-Badr said.
Mixing business with health
The founders' resumes are a mix of startup experience and medical knowledge.
Al-Badr launched a company called Waseel in 2004, which connected health institutions, insurance companies and individuals, and Al-Razuqi founded the Kuwaiti platform Abidoc that helps patients search for a physician and book an appointment.
The two men met four years ago at a conference, Al-Badr said.
“We discussed the issue of launching an integrated healthcare platform in Saudi Arabia, then we decided to actually do so. We learned a lot about the sector and its problems from Waseel and Abidoc,” he said.
In terms of privacy, Sihatech is protected by the American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), in order to protect patients’ privacy.
There’s no success without challenges
Finding skilled people to employee was hard. Sihatech worked with recruitment companies in order to find its ten employees, and offers them equity in the company in order to keep them.
“Obtaining the trust of the hospitals and patients, and encouraging people to adopt digital services,” was also among the difficulties, Al-Badr said. They overcame it by providing suitable services, and focusing on customer satisfaction.
The platform currently works in multiple Saudi cities including Riyadh and Jeddah, but Al-Badr wants to expand into the Gulf and further, in order to become the “first technological option for the healthcare solutions”.
They’re want to start offering services such as online payments and online consultations.
Finally, Al-Badr advises entrepreneurs not to delay marketing or selecting the team, and to obtain funding prior to the need for it, for that makes it easier once you’re really starting to expand.
Feature image via Sihatech.