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E-health consultation services in MENA can make up for doctor shortage

The news: A doctor shortage in developing markets like Egypt has been compounded by the pandemic. Health consultation startups like Esaal are expanding services and reach through investments to help tackle poor doctor-to-patient ratios, per TechCrunch.

Who is Esaal? Esaal recently raised $1.7 million to scale its services and offerings throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

  • The need for consultation in the MENA region is only growing. Esaal enables health consultations via smartphone app, text/video calls, and in-person visitations.
  • The platform currently charges subscription fees and on-demand consultation fees with plans to make money from in-person visitations in subsequent updates.
  • Esaal is also expanding its B2B2BC model where it partners with medium to large companies to provide services to their employees.
  • Esaal flourished during the pandemic-induced lockdowns. Its user base expanded by 55% between 2020 and 2021 with over 1 million users.

Why it could succeed: There’s a growing mental health crisis among MENA populations, and there’s a severe shortage of doctors. 

  • 35% of MENA citizens experience constant stress and 29% suffer from depression per TechCrunch.
  • Egypt’s doctor to citizen ratio is 8.6 for every 10,000 and it has only worsened throughout the pandemic, per the Middle East Monitor.
  • Esaal has a roster of 350 consultants covering a broad range of medical issues including anxiety, physiotherapy, pediatrics, and nutrition.
  • Other platforms like Vezeeta, Meddy, and Shezlong specialize on consultation, mental health, or nutrition exclusively, while Esaal combines all three verticals in an application similar to a super app.

What’s next? While based in Egypt, Esaal services seven other countries—namely Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine, and Iraq.

Continued growth and success could drum up other health consultation startups in the region, which has a population of 500 million people.