With a system often ineffective in connecting patients with the right type of Doctors in Pakistan, one would expect Technology to assume the saviour role to tackle the issue at hand. For comparison, Pakistan tends to use India due to the similarities in both nations. As such, we cast our eye to Lybrate — a successful model hailing from our neighbour country. This article will take a look at the Pakistani offerings for the problem and see how they compare with the successful startups.
Lybrate founded in 2013, has raised a total of $14 million in its first few years whilst its largest competitor Practco has raised a whopping $180 million. Lybrate boasts 100,000 doctors, claims over six million ‘interactions’ per month and a tally of 4.5 million app downloads. The figures seem very impressive. If Pratco is anything to go by, Lybrate has a bright future ahead.
Offerings in Pakistan
A quick search through Facebook and Google yields many results, most of which seem to display crawled data. Delving further it appears there are a few genuine companies offering such a solution.
One of the oldest companies working to connect patients with the doctors, however, currently their online accounts seem to be redundant leading us to believe they have ceased trading.
Another company in the same industry that maintains an active Facebook account, but trying to search for a Doctor on their platform is impossible. A search was made for doctors under a few different specialisations but we had no luck finding one.
We did, however, have better luck with a company named ‘Marham’. Founder and CEO of Marham, Ehsan Imam, speaking to PakWired shared his thoughts on the market and his competitors. He believes Pakistan is a challenging market in general and emphasizes the larger challenges in the field of tech.
‘Some of the competitors will have faced the challenges and chosen not to pursue. We however, have a longer strategy and believe in a business which returns more than profit.’
In response to why he felt Marham is showing signs of success whilst it’s competitors had tried with many failing, he felt the team’s corporate experience gave them the edge. December 2016 saw an undisclosed investment by a private investor which valued the company at $1.5 million. Though the amount wasn’t disclosed, Ehsan confirmed that it was intended to cover the operating costs of the business for a period of twelve months.
Currently the service offers location of doctors by vicinity and specialisation through the site or mobile application. Ehsan is happy with the progress and informed us that some great work is in the pipeline where doctors in hospitals will be contactable along with online consultations by current doctors. Ehsan has been sure to highlight the importance of technology. He believes that technology is revolutionising all aspects of life and the users, especially the doctors need to understand that if we don’t deliver on the demand of the public, they will go where the service is available, like in India, to utilise the convenient services — a valid suggestion.
From a customer perspective, you can find doctors for the specialisation you require and those nearest to you. With the ratings system and clear pricing, you can make an informed choice on the doctor you want to visit. Such a service can hopefully reduce the times finding the specialist doctors the patients require.
Maximising the Tech Potential in Healthcare
With the world looking for ‘quick-fix’ solutions such as Uber, Careem, Food Panda etc, it doesn’t seem long before this relatively new type of service will be more common and in high demand. Looking at this holistically, there is a potential for tech to play a much bigger role than to offer doctors on demand. Though a great service is offered by the likes of Lybrate and Marham, one can’t help but feel the ‘modern convenience’ aspect of it. Yes, they solve a problem for the people and are important but, in line with most of the startup ecosystem in Pakistan, it seems too much focus is on a ‘service’ element that makes life a little easier. What would be great, is to see a wider peripheral pushing the boundaries of the tech we have.
The answer isn’t a simple one. We have to try and test a few things alongside researching the problems faced by patients and healthcare professionals throughout Pakistan. We must also remember healthcare expands to beyond medical doctors, and look into dentistry, mental health, self-care, substance misuse and more. If the goal is to solve a problem, than there are many to be found, its just we have to ask the right questions and look in the right places.