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COVID-19 and the future of digital healthcare services

COVID-19 and the future of digital healthcare services
COVID-19 made investments in healthcare a top priority

By: Moslem Ali

Cairo – Mubasher: The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has changed the outlook for investments in the healthcare sector, providing new opportunities to startups from around the globe, panellists agreed during the Future of Healthcare session of RiseUp from Home.

RiseUp from Home, the first virtual event by RiseUp, was held online on 13-15 August, in line with the preventive measures against COVID-19, under the theme “Got Grit?”

Amir Barsoum, Founder and CEO at Vezeeta, alongside Andrew Nerlinger Co-Founder at PandemicTech and Venture Partner at Bill Wood Ventures, discussed in their fireside chat the story of Vezeeta, an Egypt-based online healthcare booking platform, which began in 2012 and is now operating in many countries across the region.

At Vezeeta, they first thought of having a subscription-based platform, which would not have been welcomed by doctors, however, a transaction-based system allowed the platform to achieve high growth rates, Barsoum explained.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Vezeeta was already planning to launch a different telemed service, but COVID changed their plans, as many patients could no longer go to the doctor’s clinic, as usual, so remote and online solutions became a viable option, which allowed Vezeeta to offer a new telemed service.

Most patients preferred phone calls to video calls, although this might limit the interaction between the patient and the doctor, according to the CEO.

In addition, from both the patients and physicians sides, more people are now adapting to the changes in medical services, he further noted, adding that although the technical infrastructure is in decent shape, the legal framework is still forming both in Egypt and the GCC countries.

There is a new wave of people shifting to startups, Basroum emphasised, recalling the time when his company started when very few executives were shifting from corporations to startups.

For his part, Nerlinger said that there is an opportunity within this tragedy, with COVID-19 putting investments in healthcare as a top priority.

This was not the case when he first started in 2003, Nerlinger indicated, pointing to the growth of the startup ecosystem in the United States since the 1970s with improved funding and government support that helped boost the startup scene.

But for a successful startup, it is not necessarily about the funding, but “about how a company is built,” according to Nerlinger.

One of the ideas that lie ahead for startups to harness is how to effectively distribute the highly anticipated vaccine across the country to a large population, Nerlinger noted.


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