2020 will forever be known as the year the world stayed indoors and every industry, including healthcare, needed to find a way to bring the idea of “safe distance” into everything they do. It’s the kind of rapid change that makes the business phrase digital transformation sound like an understatement. The way we now work and live has transformed for everyone and for most of us life is more digital-first than ever.
Omar Alzaabi, a Berkeley graduate and engineer with an interest in healthcare, is the perfect example of an entrepreneur who saw a gap in the market and found a creative, financially viable solution. The Emirati “healthpreneur” created company Housecall last year with his cofounders, before the pandemic hit, and since then, interest in the app has skyrocketed, with word getting out and downloads of the Housecall app doubling every week.
As he puts it, the business started when the team assessed the status of primary healthcare services in the region and we thought, “What could we contribute, what are the potential gaps? What can we do to improve the health of the general population?”
The answer was to make primary care more accessible and more convenient. By doing so the Housecall team felt they could not only improve health outcomes, but also reduce healthcare costs for those picking up the bill. As Alzaabi explains, “That became our mission statement: to make primary care more accessible, while improving on the quality of care, with the ultimate goal of improving people’s quality of life.”
Alzaabi adds that they refer to the Housecall service as “providing access to ‘technology-enabled modern-day house calls (doctors’ visits at home)’. We can improve patient experience, reduce avoidable emergency room visits, and help to effectively address lifestyle-related disease. Also, recent studies suggest that increasing access to home-based primary care services can lead to better outcomes for chronic and acute illnesses, so we’re ultimately helping to lower the burden on the healthcare system.”
Alzaabi’s estimation is correct. In most societies, 5% of the population accounts for 50% of all healthcare spending, according to a report by Harvard Business Review. The study, produced in 2018, found that treating patients at home vastly reduced costly hospitalisations, encouraged autonomy in how patients approach their care, and helped provide more consistent care, which leads to a greater sense of psychological ease and well-being. Another study published last year showed that costs were cut even for those without chronic illness, while outcomes improved because of the dedicated, one-on-one care.
Part of the Hub71 tech ecosystem, Housecall has seen a huge increase in users, particularly because of COVID-19. The UAE, like many countries, had a government-issued lockdown for three months, and vulnerable people were put in the difficult position of needing healthcare, but being in danger from a visit to hospital or a doctor’s office. Clearly this was a situation that favoured the Housecall service,
Another aspect of the bespoke healthcare provided by Housecall is that all the doctors registered to it are all specialist and consultant primary care doctors, meaning that they’re some of the best in the field and they arrive with all the medical equipment needed for each house call. You also get a firm quote for the service you want before you book, so there are no nasty surprises or bills in the post. And, much like Uber, you get updates of where your doctor is on their journey to you, with any updates on additional waiting time. Patients can keep in touch with the customer service team via WhatsApp, phone or email.
The perks for healthcare specialists are just as impressive. Because Housecall is licensed by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, as well as having partnerships with pharmacies, doctors can order lab tests, write prescriptions and refer patients to other specialists, all from the app. And the care doesn’t end when the doctor leaves a patient’s home. Lab samples can be collected at the patient’s home and prescribed medications are delivered at no charge. Follow-ups can also be conducted remotely using telemedicine, at the discretion of the healthcare professional.
While Housecall is only available in Abu Dhabi for the time being, Alzaabi says that the promise of their evidence-based, innovative care delivery means that his team has got their eyes on a Middle East-wide expansion, as well as being in the market for partnerships with investors, medical practices and health professionals – the possibilities for growth are genuinely endless.
You can download Housecall on the Apple and Google Play stores. For more information, head to www.housecall.ae.