Egyptian startup tackles the critical healthcare issue of quick IDing
CAIRO | Ahmed Gabr
For Saad, the incident immediately sparked the idea of doing something that would make people’s health records readily available to a medical team in case of an emergency, regardless of a patient’s mental state, socio-economic status, or the presence of a social support system.
“Health records are either electronic or paper-based. Both are usually kept at the hospital and are not typically available with the patient whenever he or she presents to another medical provider in case of an emergency,” he says.
The portability of medical records is a problem that extends beyond Egypt and the MENA region. Even in developed countries – including the United States, where electronic medical recording is far more widely adopted – the exchange of patients’ medical records between different healthcare systems is a complex and inefficient process.
IDEA BECOMES REALITY
In February 2019, Saad and his five business partners joined Egyptian accelerator programme Falak Startups and launched Bypa-ss. The company offers a unified medical ID card connected to an online platform where medical records are saved and can be accessed by medical providers.
Prior to the launch, Saad and his team tested the waters by presenting the concept at a number of medical conferences. The idea garnered a lot of attention.
“The initial market response was very encouraging. Some [doctors] didn’t even believe the concept was real and that an EGP 50 card can actually offer patients a medical identity and a handful of discounts on medical services,” he says.
The HealthTag, as the product is called, is a physical card connected to the company’s online platform. In addition to basic medical information such as blood type, allergies and chronic medical conditions, Bypa-ss offers free software for medical providers, as well as free technical support to enable them to communicate with the online platform to save patients’ medical data, send lab results and place prescription drug orders. Some providers will also offer discounts for cardholders.
Getting initial support from the medical community for a new-to-market technology product was both challenging and crucial for the solution to gain the traction it needed to move forward.
“For medical providers, personal brands are extremely precious,” Saad says in explaining why it is typically hard to introduce a new product in the medical space.
FROM GROWING PAINS TO GROWTH CHALLENGES
Even with initial traction, maintaining growth remains a challenge, something more complex than an equation where investing more money in marketing naturally translates into more growth and wider adoption.
“Paper is our worst enemy. It was pretty tough to learn how to educate and advocate for a change within clinics and medical institutions,” Saad explains.
For Bypa-ss, however, the process of building up demand suddenly “unlocked” further growth in its market segment, and the challenge became more of how to maintain a high-quality product, network and customer support.
The company currently has more than 1,000 partners among medical care providers, with the list including major laboratories, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.
Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Bypa-ss’s business in contradictory ways. According to Saad, the customer base grew faster, but actual revenues declined as many medical providers, particularly smaller clinics, ceased operations during the enforced lockdown period in Egypt. The company responded by directing more efforts to boost online services.
“We’re looking forward to adding more features by partnering with other digital medical services/platforms, such as appointment booking platforms, drug delivery services and telemedicine platforms,” Saad says.
The company is already in talks with telemedicine providers to offer such services to its HealthTag cardholders.
In addition, Saad and his team are moving to grow their network in more geographical locations in Cairo and Alexandria.
“We’ve previously been more active in the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt,” he elaborates.