Startup Spotlight: HealthStay Aims To Tap Into The UAE's Burgeoning Medical Tourism Industry With medical tourism only set to grow in Dubai and the UAE, a new startup, HealthStay, is now hoping to become the link between medical tourists with healthcare providers here.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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HealthStay
Ruairi Tubrid and Sean Conaty, co-founders, HealthStay

This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.

674,000: that's the official number of medical tourists that the UAE welcomed in the year 2022 alone, as per a report released by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in April this year. In fact, a whopping AED992 million was paid by patients from across the globe towards Dubai-based medical services that same year. With medical tourism only set to grow in Dubai and the UAE, a new startup, HealthStay, is now hoping to become the link between medical tourists with healthcare providers here.

With the aim to streamline the many processes involved within medical tourism into a singular solution, the first version of the HealthStay platform was launched in November 2023 by co-founders Ruairí Tubrid and Sean Conaty. "From confirming treatment and travel dates, to finalizing accommodation, the entire medical tourism journey typically takes 6-8 weeks," Tubrid explains. "Our platform empowers clients to book all aspects of their medical tourism journey almost instantly. We conduct thorough prescreening and exclusively partner with reputable, high-end medical providers for all budgets, thereby eliminating concerns such as unverified Google reviews, lacking duty of care, and the need for extensive client research."

Billing itself as an "all-inclusive medical tourism booking platform," HealthStay enables its users browse through a catalog of medical providers, airlines, as well as hotel accommodations to decide what suits their needs and schedules the best. And there is plenty of help for the users along the way, assures Tubrid. "We believe we are the only company or platform in the world that offers a comprehensive, end-to-end solution for customers embarking on their medical tourism journey," he says. "We empower them with the capability to seamlessly browse, consult, and instantly book all essential elements. Additionally, our team provides unwavering support throughout the entire journey- right from the pre-travel phase to airport arrivals, during their medical care, and even after the treatment is completed. We maintain open communication with clients, and we also collaborate closely with medical experts to ensure their wellbeing and satisfaction."

But HealthStay isn't only catered towards patients- incorporated into its operations are benefits for the medical entities and professionals as well. "We remove the necessity for medical providers to invest substantial time in pursuing leads, awaiting responses, managing lost leads, and overseeing travel and accommodation logistics, along with the accompanying high marketing expenses," Tubrid says. "Medical providers now engage in their first interaction with well-informed medical tourists during a consultation call, where pricing, travel dates, and procedure specifics are already established. This efficient process significantly diminishes the need for prolonged back-and-forth communication, minimizes lead loss, and ultimately leads to reduced clinic marketing expenditures."

But how does easing monetary and other issues for traveling patients and medical providers earn HealthStay its bucks? The answer is a two-pronged revenue model. "Our primary source of revenue is derived from a commission-based model targeting business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions," Tubrid explains. "This includes earning commissions ranging from 15%-20% of the total value of each medical procedure, 10%-20% on flight and accommodation bookings, and a substantial 30% on tourism activities. What sets our model apart is our ability to collect all commissions upfront through our platform's payment portal, eliminating the need for post-sale follow-ups on our part. In addition to our B2C revenue, our business-to-business (B2B) revenue stream relies on a robust referral network, strategic brand partnerships, collaborations with healthcare boards, and agreements with insurance providers."

Related: To Future-Proof Healthcare, Collaboration Between The Public And Private Sectors Is Key

Image courtesy HealthStay.

Now, the idea to create HealthStay was sparked when Conaty himself embarked on a medical tourism journey for his own reasons in 2022, and found multiple loopholes that needed to be addressed. That experience brought to light the relevance of creating trustworthy connections within medical tourisma goal that Conaty and Tubrid are now incredibly keen on achieving at HealthStay. "While technology certainly plays an indispensable role in problem-solving and enhancing accessibility, in our industry, trust is paramount, and we are fully aware of this," Tubrid says. "On our platform, clients enjoy continuous access to our team, allowing them to raise questions, or address concerns, 24/7. We prioritize building trust by requiring an online consultation before clients can proceed with booking major procedures. This consultation enables clients to meet the healthcare team that will be providing their treatment, fostering essential face-to-face interactions."

While HealthStay is currently in its customer acquisition stage, the cofounders are also looking at ways to scale their entrepreneurial venture. "In the meantime, we are also validating our model and generating revenue," Tubrid adds. "All progress to date has been financially bootstrapped by both of us co-founders. Furthermore, to ensure top-quality tech development and marketing, we've outsourced these functions to trusted long-term partners. Our near-term plan involves gaining initial customers and proof of concept, with the aim of seeking seed funding to scale marketing efforts in target markets. Despite our compact team of four, we see significant financial potential and long-term value in our business, as we progress not just in the UAE market, but also to other medical tourism hubs."

The MBRIF Innovation Accelerator program has thus come as a launchpad for the goals HealthStay aims to realize. Tubrid and Conaty first got to know of the program's existence through an acquaintance they made at the Irish Business Network, a Dubai-based organization that supports professionals who are Irish, or have an affiliation with Ireland, and live in the Middle East. "As first-time founders in the UAE, we recognized that we had room to enhance our comprehension of the local market, and we were in need of support to expand our network and achieve product-market fit," Tubrid recalls. "Initially, our objective was not to engage with an ecosystem that emphasized investment and unattainable targets. Instead, we sought an environment where we could focus on learning and building for a period of six months, which led us to the MBRIF ecosystem. Furthermore, our initial communication with MBRIF indicated that they were the most suitable accelerator for our specific needs. In my view, the MBRIF serves as an excellent illustration of the support, commitment to going the extra mile, and the high-quality ecosystem and startup infrastructure that Dubai embodies."

As Tubrid and his team now roll up their sleeves to grow their platform, the co-founder offers a very candid take on what it's like to realize one's entrepreneurial dreams in Dubai. "I find that in Dubai, there is a can-do attitude, people want to progress, and they want to help you with support or advice," Tubrid says. "I'm not sure that people outside of Dubai fully understand the opportunities that this Emirate offers, but in years to come, I feel that it will be looked back upon and strongly recognized. The speed at which partnerships and agreements are signed off at has been our only real significant challenge. But the startup infrastructure here is incredible, it doesn't matter what your background is- if you have a good business idea, a willingness to work hard and learn, then you will be fully supported in Dubai, and given ample opportunity to be successful. That, I think, is all that any entrepreneur can ask for."

Related: Startup Spotlight: Dubai-Based DarDoc Is Enabling Easier Access To Home Healthcare Services For Patients Across The UAE

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Writer, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Writer at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is keen on pursuing and writing stories on people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

A bibliophile, chai addict, and photography enthusiast, she can be often found (animatedly) talking about Kdramas, BTS, cricket, novels, and comic book films.

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