Sick of waiting in overcrowded doctors’ lounges, only to be told that you needed more tests done!
Is your medicine cabinet, or worse your stomach, full of pills and chemicals prescribed by overzealous practitioners?
If yes, telehealth is for you. This method to enhance healthcare using telecommunications technologies rids you of unnecessary and often costly headaches.
We sat with Charlie Barlow, investor and founder of Health at Hand, a brand new UAE-based app, which gives face-face access to highly qualified, Western-trained doctors via video consultations for the price of one cup of coffee per month.
“In today’s market, where we are used to getting things on demand, there is a huge opportunity for primary health care to be done through a handset, as long as it is done safely,” Barlow told AMEinfo.
“As long as we put the patient and quality of healthcare first,” he added.
How was the idea born?
Back to Cali
After 12 years of Private and Investment Banking for leading international banks, Barlow decided to establish his technology Venture Capital business – Rockfirst Capital, in 2012. He has since invested in and raised capital for 17 technology-enabled companies and more recently launched Health at Hand.
He was inspired to build Health at Hand when he found himself spending hours in doctor’s waiting rooms with his three young children.
Barlow got on a plane to Silicon Valley, the US being a market where Telehealth is disrupting primary healthcare like never before.
“I interviewed 18 telehealth CEOs including the advisor of former US president Obama, Dr. Pat Basu, Chief Medical Officer, Doctor On Demand, and together decided that we build something that would impact real life issues that primary health has in the Middle East, using bests practices from around the world and focusing first on the UAE,” said Barlow.
How does it work?
The Health at Hand App takes you to live videos.
Download the App for free, then upload previous and current medical history, then check relevant items on a clipboard, before going into a virtual waiting room.
Within 2 minutes, the live video consultancy starts.
Why Health at Hand?
Health at Hand is an English and Arabic language app, offering as good as what you get in a physical environment, but far less costly, and quickly (2 minutes after any inquiry, and from the comfort of your home or office).
The app’s Chief medical officer is a Harvard Doctor and all of the App’s doctors are US board certified or equivalent.
“Inflation on the region’s health insurance is extremely high, and higher than most markets that we studied, experiencing a huge increase in premium every year,” stated Barlow.
“On the flip side, there are also high abuse cases where diagnostic testing is overdone or medications overprescribed.”
Health at Hand, having only recently launched, has not yet announced onboard insurance, “though we are actively engaged with 8 of the top 10 insurers in the UAE and wider GCC.”
“When we can solve issues through live videos, there is a tremendous cost saved, and our engagement with the insurance sector is aimed at overcoming unnecessary costs to the insured,” explains Barlow.
Is there a regional market for Health at Hand?
When a doctor is needed and lab tests are required, telehealth operators, companies like Health-at-Hand, recommend seeing a doctor and having tests done.
But telehealth is also about providing instant consultations, but Barlow said that the UAE and the wider GCC region are slow adopting the technology.
But there are opportunities to tap into.
“The cost of a walk-in to a doctor in the UAE is around AED350 (Almost $100), and that’s before any tests are made or drugs are issued,” says Barlow.
“In the US, anywhere between, 70%-90% of all walk-in visits can be treated through videos, looking and listening,” he adds.
For example, someone would say: “My child has fallen over. Do I need to take him to the ER? And the answer could be: ‘No he’s fine, just put his leg up’.”
“A lot of it is minor non-emergency stuff, helping clear waiting rooms, and emergency rooms in Lebanon, the UAE, or elsewhere in the GCC, where 60%-80% of people don’t need to be,” said Barlow.
“Some are going with a cough in the middle of the night, visiting the emergency room, and waiting on a heart surgeon to deal with them,” jokes Barlow to emphasize the problem.
What the app’s business model?
Health at Hand offers a range of affordable options.
Subscriptions start at as low as 7AED ($1.9) per month per member for a family annual plan.
“Families can have many live conversations with US certified doctors, as they wish in that period,” said Barlow.
One can also choose “to pay as you go” for just AED100 ($27) per video consultation.
The app is working on creating embedded packages where one could come back to the same doctor, for his favourite pediatrician, dermatologist and so on.
“We are also looking at launching clinics within clinics, specialist mental health facilities, and others,” he expands.
The app endorses plain vanilla consultations and treatments to 15 ailments, for now, all non-emergency conditions.
“As tech advances, and the consumer becomes more comfortable, a lot more can be treated,” said Barlow.
He mentions lactation consultancy for new mothers and mental health consultations from the comfort of one’s home, diabetes treatment, and even using virtual thermometers and stethoscopes within apps in the future.
“Like with on demand apps, a lot of our spent will go through B2C models with social media and PR, but ultimately through a B2B market, essentially families, businesses and when we are more mature, in 12 months’ time, around 70%- 90% of our business will be from B2B, specifically insurance as well as corporate contracts.
The company raised $1million in summer 2016, $3.1 million in Summer 2017, and is now looking to go back in the market before end 2018 to raise further revenue.
“We look to scale across the GCC and wider Levant,” said Barlow.
“Technology and healthcare are very attractive for venture capitalists, and equity investors, and we are building the highest quality, most robust telehealth platform ever to be seen in the ME and Africa.”
Who is Barlow?
Having lived and worked in London, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney, and now Dubai, Barlow has a strong foothold in the technology communities of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Silicon Valley.
He’s a trusted partner to a number of global corporates, SMEs and family offices, facilitating the acquisition of significant minority stakes in the early stage of technology-related businesses.
From wireless charging through to education and healthcare, Barlow has a demonstrable track record in building success across a diverse range of sectors.
Barlow has built up quite a following – with 15,000 follows on LinkedIn.