Fodhil Benturquia, founder and CEO of Okadoc, on how this Dubai-based tech company plans to simplify healthcare experience, and help clinics and hospitals address some of their biggest challenges.
What is Okadoc’s business model?
It’s a platform for patients to search for medical practitioners or clinics by spoken languages, insurance plans, availability of doctors, location, and many more. They can look up doctors, read about their experience and cost of the consultation. And most importantly, they can make an instant booking. It’s very important to note that this is not online booking – it gives patients access to the availability of doctors in real time and they can book, reschedule and cancel within seconds. The concept is very similar to booking a ride or ordering your food online.
For clinics and hospitals, what we offer is access to either our calendar management system or direct connection to our systems using global standards. Through our platform, we fix a major problem faced by the healthcare industry, which is no-show or percentage of missed appointments without prior notification. Our research shows that the no-show rate in the UAE is around 37 percent, and in Saudi, it is more than 50 percent, while this is about 20 percent in the US. This translates into lost revenue opportunities worth billions of dollars for healthcare providers. It is a problem largely accepted by the industry, and we have been able to reduce it by 75 percent. Another advantage we offer to clinics and doctors is increased visibility. We averaged around 300,000 visitors last month, and we are expecting to double that number over the next couple of months.
How did you come up with the business idea?
It came from my personal experience when I had to spend 15 minutes on the phone to book an appointment with a doctor. You can use your phone to book a ride or order food in less than 30 seconds, and it only takes less than a minute to book a ticket. With e-commerce and other technologies, we have fixed many problems, but not healthcare, which is the most important thing in our lives, and it was shocking to me. When I started looking around, I found that some startups are offering online booking, and I realized what they actually do is make online booking requests, which is misleading. How this works is they’d sent an email to a clinic or hospital, and then you have to wait for a day or two get a call from your healthcare provider. It is a two-step process, and technology is here to reduce complexity, not increase it. We have addressed that problem with Okadoc.
Is Okadoc available only in the UAE?
Yes, for now, and we are launching in Saudi very soon, and another country in the region by the end of this year.
Why is the healthcare industry late to catch up with digital transformation?
There are many other industries which got digitally mature before healthcare, and you know why. Uber couldn’t have come earlier. When smartphones were launched in 2007, we didn’t have 3G networks, phone batteries were weak, and not everyone could afford one. A business model like Uber became possible only when we had faster networks and phones, and it became a tool for drivers. Everything in your life is now digital – your social life, shopping, transportation, etc, and I can’t answer why didn’t this happen in healthcare earlier. I can only assume that the healthcare industry has lagged behind because it is not a very sexy industry for people to get into, and it’s very fragmented. That being said, the pace of digital transformation is now accelerating in this industry now.
Are we moving into the era of cost transparency in healthcare?
We have the price list of consultation and other services available on our platform. Typically, the cost of consultation ranges from AED 100 to 600 in the UAE. Unlike the US, where not everyone has health insurance, the great thing about our country is everyone has one. However, the problem here is you are not sure who will accept your insurance plan and the price of consultation, and our platform gives you a good indication of what it could cost you for healthcare.