UAE's health-tech start-up Okadoc raises $10m for tele-medicine and Gulf expansion

Abu Dhabi Investment Office and Ithmar Capital Partners among investors in the Series A funding round

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Fodhil Benturquia, CEO and Founder of at the Arab Health, Dubai World Trade Centre. Leslie Pableo for The National
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UAE-based start-up Okadoc raised $10 million (Dh36.7m) in its latest funding round from institutional and private investors to finance plans to launch tele-medicine services and expand its footprint across the Gulf.

The health-tech firm's Series A round of financing received backing from Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) and Ithmar Capital Partners, Okadoc said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The fund-raising is for expansion. We are launching tele-medicine and expanding in the region," Fodhil Benturquia, founder and chief executive of Okadoc, said.

Healthcare providers in the Gulf are expanding as the population increases and the cost of treatment edges higher. Expected improvements in the quality of healthcare provision, together with rising demand for preventive care and digital medical services are set to drive growth in the industry.

Medical search portal Okadoc, which previously raised $2.3m in a seed round in 2018, is planning to expand its operations to Saudi Arabia this year, starting with Riyadh and Jeddah, before targeting other cities.

"We are going very big in Saudi Arabia, we are talking to large healthcare providers and smaller clinics," Mr Benturquia said. "Our plan is quite aggressive there. It’s a very big market."

Other Gulf countries are also within Okadoc's sights, he said, declining to disclose details. The start-up already has operations in the UAE and Indonesia.

Okadoc will also invest in providing tele-medicine, a service that will allow patients to access virtual consultations with their doctors remotely, in the UAE from this year.

"What we are seeing through data and talking to our customers is that there's a lot of questions: In which case should I see a doctor? Sometimes they want to talk to a doctor for a symptom check or to see if the case is serious or not," he said. "There's a big need for assessments, follow-ups, seeking a second opinion."

The service is aimed at underserved populations with limited access to healthcare.

It would help improve access to doctors for UAE patients living in the northern emirates, where a wider range of medical specialities is harder to find, according to Mr Benturquia.

It would also serve patients in Indonesia, where the ratio of doctors per capita is among the lowest in the world, reducing waiting times for those in remote rural areas or those in the traffic-clogged capital Jakarta, he said.

Okadoc, which has a team of 30 employees in Indonesia, is undertaking safety precautions in the country where cases of the deadly coronavirus have been detected.

It is advising staff to work from home and circulating the WHO's recommendations on health and safety measures.

The platform has not seen a spike in doctor bookings following the spread of coronavirus, Mr Benturquia said.

Okadoc - which was founded in 2018 to help patients book doctor appointments instantly -says its platform helps doctors, clinics, and hospitals reduce 'no-shows', improve the booking process, reduce administrative costs, increase operational efficiency and attract new patients.

The service, which is free for patients, helps users find a doctor as per the insurance network, location, speciality, the language they speak, or gender. Patients can then view doctors' availability in real-time, instantly book appointments, receive reminders, reschedule, cancel or even request earlier availability.