Meddy, launched in September 2014, is an online platform which helps people living in Qatar in their quest to find the best doctors based on patient reviews and credentials. This startup’s mission? Meddy wants to ensure a patient will never have a bad experience with a doctor, and abides by the vision of being the primary intermediary between patient and a doctor in the region. Founded by Haris Aghadi and Abdulla AlKhenji, both majors in Information Systems at Carnegie Mellon University Qatar, the two have banded together to put everything they’ve got into the success of their enterprise. Aghadi, a Pakistani national based in Qatar minored in Business Entrepreneurship, while co-founder AlKhenji hails from Qatar and minored in Computer Science.
According to Aghadi, less than 30% of clinics in Doha have a website due to the lack of understanding and appreciation for technology, and the benefits of how it can grow their business. “Clinics are run by doctors, and they are not that tech-savvy to have a website. Although, quite a few will get a website made by a contractor when the clinic is launched, but the website is never updated with proper content. They don’t think a website can help them attract new patients and build a brand awareness.” Aghadi adds that doctors in the small Gulf state mostly rely on advertising on newspapers and word of mouth referrals. “However, quite a few of them have started to have strong presence on Facebook and Instagram, since it’s quite easier to manage.”
In addition, Aghadi shares that most people in Qatar rely on their friends and family who have been in the country for a while for word-of-mouth recommendations to find a good physician. “But Qatar has a huge expatriate population that is very new to the country. Not to mention it’s growing drastically. Those people don’t have so many friends and family to rely on to find a good doctor. Most of them end up on Google search for doctors, but less than 30% of the clinics and hospitals in Qatar have a website.” The few websites that are available are not up to date, and that’s how the concept of Meddy came to be. “We provide all the information about a doctor such as their medical credentials, clinic location, specialization, sub-specialization, scope of practice etc. Our aim is to help people make an informed health decision,” says Aghadi.
Initially, Meddy was never intended to be a startup, as it was part of Aghadi and Alkhenji’s senior university project. “However, we then got lots of encouragement from the faculty and other students to make this product public to help them find a doctor. Hence, we launched it as a startup. We initially started with only 20 doctors, and most of them were gynecologists. We then started other specialties such as pediatricians, dentists, dermatologists, and more.” At present, Meddy has approximately 1,000 doctors listed from 120 private clinics and hospitals from more than 20 specializations available throughout Qatar. “Getting data on doctors and clinics was a huge challenge. We relied on a manual approach by visiting the clinic ourselves and calling them, due to the lack of websites. We focus on private [enterprises], because in public hospitals, you don’t have so much freedom to choose which doctor you can see. You get what’s available, otherwise you have to wait a very long time, or pull some strings to see a doctor that you like.”
Meddy is focused on assisting the public to decide which doctor they want to visit. In addition, all information is verified from the Qatar Supreme Council of Health prior to uploading profiles on the website. “We do that by providing extensive content on the doctor’s medical credentials and patient reviews to help with the decision making process.” For instance, with Meddy as a platform, the public can filter doctors based on a particular medical field, languages they speak, gender, and clinic. In the near future, Meddy will be adding more filters such as area and insurance providers, in addition to an Arabic version of the website in order to cater to the large Arabic-speaking community. “[A filter for] insurance providers is a big one, since most patients request us to help them find doctors that is under their insurance network, as patients don’t want to pay out of their pockets. They only want to go to a doctor where their insurance cards will be accepted.”
Since the launch of Meddy, most of its traffic is from organic searches and Facebook. “People are constantly searching on Google for doctors, so we have a lot of traffic from there. People also share links of doctor profiles with their friends on Facebook so we get traffic from there as well.” And how do the revenue streams work? The startup generates income in two different ways; one is a traditional advertising model, and the other is through site bookings. Clinics are permitted to do targeted banner advertisements on the desired specialty section. For instance, a clinic can place a banner ad on the dentist section saying 40% off on teeth whitening. Secondly, there is the premium profile, meaning doctors are allowed to accept booking requests from prospective patients. “Not to be confused with a booking appointment,” Aghadi clarifies. “What we do is a patient can go to a premium doctor profile and click on book now and fill out his/her name, phone and appointment preference time, and we automatically send that to the clinic, and then someone from the clinic calls back the patient to confirm the appointment request.” Aghadi says that the reason behind this is due to the fact that there are a lot of popular clinics in Qatar, where the patient calls the clinic to book an appointment and have to wait 10 to 15 minutes on the phone in order to make an appointment. “With Meddy, a patient spends less than 10 seconds filling out the information and gets a call from the clinic. This leads to better patient satisfaction and patient loyalty. Eventually, we want to move into full-fledged online appointment system, where patients can immediately book a slot on a desired physician’s calendar.”
After launching his own business, what does Aghadi suggest as tips for young ‘treps looking to launch an idea? Firstly, the co-founder advises young entrepreneurs to not waste their time writing a business plan about a cool idea, and instead use the business model canvas. “The ‘build first, monetize later’ mentality doesn’t really work well in this region and will give you a very hard time raising capital. Find business models with high liquidity and great margins. There is lot of bureaucracies and inefficient processes to get anything done, so be patient.”