Qatari healthcare directory Meddy has launched its first Arabic version with the expectation that using the region’s native language will yield commercial success.
After Meddy launched in August 2014 it caught people’s attention in startup competitions with its service to help foreigners find and review doctors in Qatar.
“But when doctors and users insisted on having Meddy target the Arabic population and Qatari citizens, we launched an Arabic version in early September,” said cofounder and CTO Abdulla AlKhenji.
In the Middle East half of the 375 million residents only speak Arabic.
“Our visitors went from 30,000 to 55,000 within a month.”
Last year the Meddy team told Wamda that of the 600 medical practices in Qatar fewer than 60 had an online presence. “People always have to ask about doctors while many doctors don’t even have an email address,” AlKhenji said in an interview this month.
So he created the platform with his cofounder, CEO Haris Aghadi, to increase the online presence of doctors.
This reflects a growing interest in digital healthcare. This market is projected to be worth $69 billion by 2018 in the GCC alone, which has a high smartphone use at 75 percent, and rising health challenges.
Making an Arabic medical site is not easy
The Arabic language is not perfect when it comes to programming, let alone translating difficult medical terms.
Technically building a medical platform in Arabic is difficult, from orienting the text and user interface from right to left, to finding a professional programmer who speaks Arabic.
But luckily AlKhenji, the main developer, spent a lot of time building their Arabic search engine optimization and translated the English terminology with the help of their medical advisor Dr. Abdulwahid Zainal.
For the reviews, the team decided to not translate the old ones and despite fears that Arabs wouldn’t leave comments, they did and doctors engaged with them.
“There were no famous Arabic platforms from Qatar, now we are,” he said.
Meddy is not the first of its kind in the region. In Dubai, Doctoruna allows users to search for a doctor or a hospital and book an appointment. You can also find Webteb and Altibbi that provide medical information, and Etobb to ask doctors questions online.
But these platforms do not affect Meddy directly since it’s the only one in Qatar.
A slow but effective start
The cofounders launched the startup after graduating from university. They received some funding while being incubated in Qatar Science & Technology Park, and then joined the Digital Incubation Center (DIC) for two years.
Today, Meddy has more than 2,000 doctors and 250 clinics in its directory. The service is free for patients, and doctors pay a monthly subscription fee to display their information plus a little more if they want to boost their place in the search ranking.
AlKhenji said Meddy was planning to become a clinic management platform by adding an appointment system.
The marketing is done through social media and direct communication with doctors, as well as “working hard on SEO”.
More than 60 percent of users access the service through an iPhone so the team will launch an iOS app by the end of October with additional services such as location-based searches, AlKhenji told Wamda.