A new startup in Qatar is offering ill residents a chance to see a doctor without even leaving their homes.
The business, which formally launched a few months ago, is the brainchild of Qatar expat Hesham Elfeshawy.
Speaking to Doha News, the Egyptian engineer said he was lying in bed sick one morning when he had a “lightbulb moment.”
Elfeshawy knew that he needed to see a doctor, but rued having to get up and head to a hospital or polyclinic.
“I felt so bad, and I thought how wonderful it would be if you had an app that you could just click and a doctor would knock on your door,” he recalled to Doha News.
Elfeshawy shared his vision with his twin brother Hatem, a doctor who previously worked in Qatar.
He had plans to launch a similar business in Australia, where he is now based.
“It’s true that we have a common language,” Hesham Elfeshawy said about his brother. He continued:
“We usually have a shared mental model. I was discussing various business ideas with Hatem and he said he’d registered a home doctor company in the Australia. So we decided to do it at the same time.”
The duo eventually set up At Home Doc together, with Hatem acting as Chief Medical Officer, and Hashem managing the business in Qatar.
It took the brothers almost two years to register their company locally.
They needed to find a Qatari partner, secure funding and receive full accreditation from authorities to offer medical services.
The funding in particular proved to be a challenge. But in February, two Doha-based doctors began seeing patients in their homes for the first time.
Both of these doctors are (coincidentally) also Egyptian, and both are registered to practice medicine in Australia.
“We wanted all of our employees, in Qatar and Australia, to be on the same level, so we focused on them needing Australian accreditation,” Hatem Elfeshawy told Doha News.
“We don’t want our doctors to improvise – we have standard procedures they must all follow.”
How the service works
Plans for Android and Apple apps and a website are in the works, but for now, At Home Doc is operating primarily from a Facebook page and via phone (7772 0807).
Once a patient gets in touch, the company’s office staff ask the on-duty doctor to pay the house call.
At Home Doc charges QR350 per home visit, a fee that Elfeshawy said was on par with rates at private clinics in Doha.
Customers pay the doctor for the service via cash or card. At Home Doc provides them with forms so that they can claim the money back from their insurance company, if they have one.
When the doctor visits, he will assess the patient, order any necessary tests and prescribe medication if needed.
Prescribed medication is delivered for free, and if further tests are needed, someone will either come to the house to take blood tests, or the patient can visit a laboratory for further screening.
Follow-up care or transfers to the hospital can also be arranged.
According to Hatem Elfeshawy, who now travels frequently to Doha, the company aims to be “as responsive as possible.”
The service is open for around 18 hours a day, with doctors sometimes seeing patients as late as 1am.
Despite the fact that the business is still in its early stages, At Home Doc’s Facebook page has already gotten several five-star reviews.
Many patients, including Afroditi Moschoudi, extolled the speedy response time.
“Pleasantly surprised by the customer service, level of response and great visiting doctor who took time and care to examine an entire family down with bad flu,” she said.
So far, about three to five patients are reaching out to the company a day, via Facebook and phone.
At Home Doc has also been approached by a number of hotels to provide consultations for tourists.
Plans are now afoot to expand the business in Qatar and other Gulf countries.
Service with a smile
According to Hatem Elfeshawy, what sets his company apart from other private medical providers in Qatar is its focus on customer service and competitive pricing.
“We don’t have assets and labs that we need to return of investment on,” he told Doha News. “We only refer patients to labs when it is required, we don’t require extra examinations when they are not required. We don’t abuse insurance providers and we don’t abuse patients.”
He also emphasized that he is keen on his company’s doctors adhering to best medical practices. This includes only prescribing antibiotics where they are necessary, he added.
“I would rather spend 30 minutes talking to the patient and their relatives about how something is viral and how antibiotics won’t work, than do a five-minute visit and give antibiotics, as many people might do,” he said.