Saudi web startup focuses on rehab for disabled children

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Hospitals and medical clinics are not the most inviting of places, especially if you have to visit them regularly, but Saudi startup iRehab has developed a way to allow some patients to stay at home.

Cofounder and physiotherapist Reem Al-Sowayegh will provide online resources, such as 3D videos, for children who suffer from delayed motor skills development and other special needs to hep them do rehabilitation exercises from the comfort of their home.

“In the first phase, the focus will be on children with delayed motor skills development,” Al-Sowayegh says. “Then we hope to expand with other services, such as early intervention, pronunciation and occupational therapy.”

iRehab, a recent graduate of Flat6Labs Jeddah, is still in development and is not the first web-based MENA healthcare startup: Webteb, Altibbi and Sohati are already here. What sets iRehab apart is its focus on rehabilitation programs for children.



Just a tiny portion of disabled children are receiving proper treatment, according to iRehab. (Images via iRehab)

Digital rehabilitation and 3D exercises

 Slated to officially launch in the month after Ramadan, iRehab’s website will offer services including online and email consultations with specialists; face-to-face video sessions; rehab programs; weekly exercises and devices to assist parents of children suffering from delayed motor skills development. The services will be provided under the specialist supervision of Al-Sowayegh.

iRehab will have an online forum for parents to discuss their experiences with specialists and with one another, and to offer moral support. Patient progress will be monitored through the website’s internal graphics system.

Al-Sowayegh, pictured below, was previously a physiotherapist at Abdul Latif Jameel Hospital for Medical Rehabilitation in Jeddah, one of the biggest rehabilitation centers in Saudi Arabia.

According to the website’s promotional video, iRehab will offer access to its library of hundreds of studies and videos devoted to children’s needs. Al-Sowayegh also wants to link patients with specialists through the website.

The idea for iRehab goes back to 2011, when the Advanced Rehab Centre for Children with Special Needs launched its Facebook page. The interest and interaction it generated inspired Al-Sowayegh to launch iRehab.

Al-Sowayegh’s first entrepreneurial endeavor was a post-rehabilitation center for children suffering from neurological disorders in 2008.

Although children are the initial focus for iRehab, Al-Sowayegh's long term goal is also to help adults suffering from strokes.

Accelerating from idea to action

Alhough Al-Sowayegh had the idea before she joined Flat6Labs, she says the accelerator helped crystallize and develop the business. Besides the opportunity to learn from more experienced mentors, she learned:

  • The fundamentals of getting started in commercial business

  • How to assess potential risks in the business world

  • How to access a wide network of partner institutions

  • The benefits of free trials and monthly pricing

Sowayegh expects to launch using a free trial peiod of a month, where future customers can receive one email consultation and one exercise per week, and then tiered pricing from $80 to $480 for different levels of specialist sessions, email consultations and exercises. All of which is carried out online.

While offering some advice and exercises for free is considered a good way to encourage parental involvement, Al-Sowayegh told Wamda that iRehab's main goal is to benefit society. With rehabilitation programs planned for adults in other languages, Al-Sowayegh aims to be of service to all throughout the reigon.

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