How Shamseya is spearheading digital health in Egypt
CAIRO | May Rostom
It all started in 2008, when Ayman Sabae pursued a master’s degree in health systems management and developed a thesis around healthcare systems in Egypt. After a year of training and rotation in Cairo’s most famous public hospitals, he was determined to turn his thesis into reality.
“Clinical rotations in my final year as a med student gave me insights on system defects in Egypt’s public hospitals. I was able to pinpoint what we lacked and what we needed to improve to put our patients at the centre of every solution or treatment we offer,” Sabae says.
THE FIRST ATTEMPT
From there on, he did exactly that. Launching his non-profit venture Eghospitals.com with only EGP 1,000 ($64) and two people, the active problem solver and his team were determined to design smart solutions that overcame common healthcare challenges while placing the patient at the forefront of every solution.
“We started off with Eghospitals.com with absolutely no money. We were against involving angel investors and using crowdfunding because, in our model, these wouldn’t have been sustainable methods of funding our project. We decided to grow our business organically and raise funds by offering consultations to organisations,” Sabae explains.
After utilising their extensive experience as doctors with hands-on field experience, the Eghospitals.com team consulted the World Health Organization (WHO) on how to use community insurance models to provide healthcare services to Egypt’s less privileged members of society.
“After working with the WHO and accepting a $5,000 grant to implement our research, things started to change for us. We were encouraged to apply for more grants that gave us the opportunity to closely inspect the market, learn from our (and their) mistakes, and grow our portfolio and experience even bigger, which in turn led to creating a steady income for us that would fund our social projects.”
THE NEXT LEVEL
In 2012, Shamseya was born. The self-funded NGO generates healthcare solutions based on participatory research and evidence-based practices. Sabae says:
“Through Shamseya, we were able to innovate and design a healthcare tool that samples patients and asks them what criteria they use to rate their hospital experience. This data then goes into another tool that assesses hospital performance and scores it. Eventually, we were hired to offer this as a service to hospitals that wanted to perform better. At this point, we took off.”
Shamseya received a grant from the UK consulate, and the money covered the expenses of the venture for nine months. This helped Sabae and his team scale up the business and expand their services to governorates outside of Cairo.
“Working in remote areas in upper Egypt helped us create impact beyond improved healthcare facilities. Through Shamseya, we (built) a community of field workers who assess hospitals in their areas and report back to us. This created a sense of accountability and social responsibility as well as new job opportunities, mostly amongst the women of these rural areas,” Sabae shares.
“While empowering women of low socioeconomic status was not our intention, most of Shamseya’s volunteers were proactive women. Four years later, Shamseya has over 250 field workers spread across Egypt and is covering over 16 hospitals.”
Sabae and the team did not stop there. Being one of 20 people around the world nominated and selected as an Obama Foundation Fellow, he was able to inspire a wave of civic innovation outside of his network and reach. Sabae proudly comments:
“Joining the Obama Foundation Fellowship helped me network better, find pragmatic solutions to existing problems, and guide me to a long-lasting, sustainable business model that would help my community long after we’re gone.”
From eghospitals.com to Shamseya, Sabae has gone on to create a social project focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic that runs on the same model. Salametna is a website that rates places based on their safety and infection control measures.