3 MENA Healthcare Startups Making a Difference

Lynn Bizri, May 18 2017

The MENA region faces several acute healthcare challenges, including challenges related to access, quality and cost of healthcare, according to the ‘MENA Healthcare Sector’ report by Al Masah Capital. The World Bank forecasts that by 2030, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and obesity will account for 87% of all deaths in the GCC, and 81% in other MENA countries. This has led to the rise of innovators and startups looking to tackle these challenges by leveraging technology to devise a variety of models and solutions – primarily in the realm of digital health.

Following up on our last article in the Wellbeing Series, here are 3 MENA startups embracing health tech trends and making a difference in the region:

Launched in 2014 by Sajjad Kamal and Aschkan Abdul-Malek, AlemHealth is an online platform that connects hospitals in developing countries with a global network of medical professionals and services. 

Through its GPU-powered AlemBox, the startup allows physicians in hospitals and diagnostic clinics in Kabul, Afghanistan to tap into a global network of radiologists and specialists to get accurate diagnoses quickly. Moreover, it surpasses limitations in electricity and the connectivity infrastructure by providing these IT services over a 3G mobile connection. 

To start using the AlemBox, the local facility first upload images to the device. The chip inside quickly processes the large digital files, which are then sent to a specialist in the U.S, Europe or India over a mobile connection using AlemHealth’s low-bandwidth protocols. The specialists assess the images and return a diagnosis in as little as 90 minutes.

In February 2015, AlemHealth became the only UAE-based company to become part of the prestigious NY-based start-up incubator Startup Health, and early last year, expanded to Lagos, Nigeria, with plans to enter the Iraq and Sudan market next. The team is also applying machine learning algorithms to bring new intelligence to the data sets they are building from images, patient histories and treatment plans. AlemHealth has received yearly seed funding since 2015, and received its latest seed fund in March from Y Combinator.  

Launched in 2015, Egypt-based Shezlong (a derivative of the French word ‘chaise lounge’), is an affordable and anonymous psychotherapy platform connecting clients with professional, licensed therapists via a mobile application and website.

Ahmed Abu el-Haz and psychiatrist Mohamed El-Shamy partnered up to build the platform, where 14,000 patients from 45 different countries, that include not only Arab nations but also UK and Australia, now seek therapy through online videoconference therapy sessions and online chatrooms. 

To access these sessions, clients must first log into the website, where they are asked which language they would like to proceed in. They can then make a selection from 88 therapists based on their case, as well as the therapists’ rates and specialties. The clients can then send a message to the therapist or book a visual session appointment, with rates varying from LE50 (3$) up to LE 400 (22$) per hour depending on the therapists’ fees. 

Late last year, Shezlong received a seed fund of $150k from A15, Endure Capital and Karim Hussein, and are now looking to expand their services to the MENA region, as well as provide a texting therapy via Whatsapp and corporate counseling services for companies to establish with their employees.

Established in the US by Ziad Sankari in 2012, with R&D offices in Lebanon and Qatar, CardioDiagnostics is a medical technology company specialized in developing cardiac monitoring products and services for doctors and patients.

CardioDiagnostics’ LifeSense Arrhythmia, is a portable wireless monitoring system that automatically detects, records and transmits a range of cardiac events wirelessly, allowing physicians to monitor patients for any abnormalities continuously in real-time up to 30 days. Cables connect the device to electrodes that attach to the patients body and monitor the heart from different angles. It is also fitted with a GPS monitor, which allows for fast medical assistance. 

The company has also developed a software platform called CloudBeat that allows medical professionals to monitor patients’ hearts, generate medical reports, and empowers them to make fast and proper diagnoses from the cardiac data. The platform is also the world’s 1st HIPAA-Compliant, hardware-agnostic cloud-based cardiac monitoring system accessible from any internet-connected device. 

In May 2015, Ziad was recognized by President Obama at the White House, who appreciated his company’s work in saving lives. CardioDiagnostics is one of Berytech’s Fund I portfolio companies, receiving a seed fund of $540K in 2015, and went through UK Lebanon Tech Hub’s International Acceleration Phase to London. Currently, CardioDiagnostics' largest segment of the company’s business comes from the U.S, followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Lebanon, with Turkey being next on the expansion agenda.



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