By Aney Mathew
“If you been unsure about which doctor to go to for a particular problem, look no further,” say Haris Aghadi and Abdulla al-Khenji, graduates of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q). The duo are founders of Meddy, an award-winning, online platform that helps people make informed decisions on finding the right private medical practitioners.
An idea that started off as a class project has not only become a startup in its own right, but has gone on to win the prestigious Tech Startup of the Year award, this year.
With a considerable database that provides information on more than 2,000 doctors in Qatar, today Meddy is the largest online physician network in the country. It doesn’t stop here, work on the website continues; recently it began catering to Arabic clientele as well, and plans are afoot to develop mobile apps, dashboard and more. Community speaks to the young entrepreneurs on their experiences, plans and dreams for Meddy. Excerpts:
The team of Meddy pose for a group photo.
Tell us about your background, the idea and the inspiration behind Meddy and the journey so far
Haris Aghadi, CEO, Meddy: My family is from Pakistan. I was born and raised in Doha. My view of life is that nothing worth doing is easy. Meddy has grown far beyond our initial plans. It was actually a life-changing time for me, when we went from a project phase to the time we were raising funds from investors and hiring people to work on Meddy, full time. Looking back, I wish we had started work on this project earlier.
Moving forward I hope to see this product grow in Qatar and the region, thus inspiring more people to pursue entrepreneurship as a career path. My dream is to make Meddy a household name in the GCC for all things related to health.
Abdulla al-Khenji, CTO, Meddy: I believe you can learn anything you want to, if you set your mind to it. When I was in primary school, my father was one of the first people in the family to buy a computer. He was very tech savvy, and inspired me to learn to use it. As a young lad, I discovered Google, and taught myself everything from design to programming, and have been developing my skills ever since.
My dream is to build apps that will help make the world a better place. Generally, I don’t plan my life; I set goals and run toward them, jumping on bridges that are on the way. I’ve learnt not to give up easily, because when you think you are failing, you are closer to success than you realise.
What exactly is Meddy?
Meddy is an online platform (http://www.meddy.co) where people can find information they require about private doctors, before deciding whom to visit. Our aim is to help you make informed health decisions based on knowledge, rather than chance. Meddy is aimed at solving the problem of not having enough information about private practitioners in Qatar, before choosing one. It aims to provide improved access to healthcare, and a convenient way for people to find information on doctors.
We currently have the largest online, physician network in the country where patients can filter information on doctors, from the data and information provided. Our database includes information on nearly 2,000 doctors from 250+ private clinics in Qatar (they speak over 30 languages combined), and covers more than 25 different specialisations.
What prompted such an idea?
The idea of Meddy was conceived as a classroom project at Carnegie Mellon University. As part of Aghadi’s course, it was mandatory to develop an idea for a business; we had to talk to potential customers, get feedback and then improve on the idea.
Our initial plan was different, it was something like LinkedIn for doctors. But on talking to a few doctors, it was clear that wouldn’t work, because doctors are too busy treating patients. So we tried to do something from the patient side.
As a result, we talked to several people and asked them to share their issues with healthcare and doctors in the country. Pretty much everyone was struggling with finding a good doctor and relied on friends or family to get relevant information.
But with the high turnover of doctors in Qatar, the chances of a favourite doctor leaving the country after 12 months, is quite high. The situation is even more difficult for new expats who don’t have family or friends for guidance. They have to go through a process of trial and error before finding the right doctor. All of this sparked the idea of creating an online platform where people can conveniently find all the required information on doctors, including patient reviews, to help with the decision making.
What initiated the move from a class project to a startup?
Initially, Meddy was intended only as a project and nothing more. Soon, however, we received a lot of encouragement from faculty and fellow students who asked us to make this product public, to help them find a doctor. Around that time someone from Doha News featured a story on us which resulted in heavy traffic on the website, with feedback from thousands of people – sure enough we launched it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Less than 30% of the clinics have a website in Qatar. So getting data on doctors and clinics was a huge challenge. We initially adopted a manual approach — visiting clinics ourselves or calling up the doctors. Another factor was that the long sales cycle with clinics meant a long time to start making revenue. Similarly, the processes and bureaucracies involved, take up lot of time and create hurdles for entrepreneurs with starting a business or growing quickly. Lastly it took a long time to incorporate the business in Qatar.
Tell us about the awards your work has received.
At the GCC Entrepreneurship Conference held recently in Bahrain, we were awarded for being one of the best startups from Qatar. We also won the prestigious Tech Startup of the Year Award 2016 in Qatar; hosted by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. This award recognises a startup that has provided innovative ICT solutions and excellent customer service, while demonstrating exceptional growth.
What are your ideas for Meddy moving forward?
There are several things on the roadmap that will all be launched by end of this year in the following sequence:
Incorporating Arabic: We’ve finally incorporated Arabic content as the traffic on the website from Arabic-speaking audience, more specifically Qataris, has grown considerably for the past six months.
Blog: We will be launching a health care blog where doctors in the country can write content. Quite a few people tend to look for medical information online and usually land on unreliable websites that either have inaccurate content written by nonmedical professionals, or information that is culturally irrelevant to Qatar. Our aim is to get the best doctors in the country to give tips and advice on medical conditions that people feel comfortable reading and acting upon.
Mobile apps: At present Meddy is a website, it is fully mobile friendly and has a great user experience when browsed through the phone. We often get more traffic from the mobile version of the website than the desktop. So it’s imperative we launch a dedicated iOS and Android app, to further enhance user experience. The key benefit of the mobile app will be to enable patients to find doctors based on their current proximity, detected by their phone GPS. Also, appointment reminders are possible through app notifications.
Dashboard: We plan to launch an online dashboard for doctors and clinics where they can get more information about their patients, that will help enhance standard of care.
Online appointment: Presently patients can send a booking request to select doctors by entering their details, and they will receive confirmation on the appointment from the clinic.
Eventually, we hope to allow patients to see a live feed of doctor’s calendar online, so they can instantly book a slot for their appointment. We look forward to making the doctor’s visit a more convenient experience for all.
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