Health at Hand, a telehealth startup targeting Middle East markets, announced that it has received $3.1 million in seed funding and will be launching its platform this Sunday in the United Arab Emirates. An unnamed regional family office anchored the funding round, which brings the company to approximately $4.1 million in total funding.
Founded in 2016, Health at Hand is a Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC)-licensed provider of patient-to-doctor video consultations that it says will be the first of its kind launched within the GCC. The company has relationships with Astrolabs, DMCC’s Google-partnered hub, and boasts Dr. Pat Basu, the former chief medical officer of leading US telemedicine platform Doctor on Demand, as a member of its board.
“We have a huge desire to help democratize primary health care in the Middle East, and unlike the US market where you see a prevalence of telehealth companies, this market is pretty immature, particularly in the regulator environment,” Health at Hand Founder and CEO Charlie Barlow told MobiHealthNews. “This funding is going to allow Health at Hand to become one of the first movers within these markets. It allows us to build out our proprietary technology as we look to move from on-demand telehealth, which is what we will launch on Sunday morning, into a more diverse range of options for patients.”
More specifically, Barlow said that the company will be using the funding to shift their platform toward a subscription model in the near future, which would then allow them to push into the Middle East’s corporate and insurance markets. During this time, the Health at Hand will also be building new features into their service, including geolocation, medication prescription, and drug delivery.
Barlow went on to explain that, unlike the US or other international markets, the Middle East’s telehealth landscape is relatively immature in terms of both regulation and competition. Even beyond telehealth, he said that on-demand technologies have only recently began to take hold in the region.
“It’s fair to say that in the Middle East over the past three to five years, there has been a huge increase in on-demand companies offering services in the Middle East [such as Uber],” he said. “What happened is that has led to an interest from the consumer and on-demand economy, but also a huge interest in family offices and venture capital businesses, private equity firms.”
The result, according to Barlow, is a market that is ripe for telehealth. The prevalence of so-called “diseases of affluence” such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are all growing in the Middle East, and often can be addressed through video consultations. Further, data collected by Health at Hand indicates that digital healthcare delivery could reduce overall costs within the market by reducing high rates of unnecessary emergency and in-patient care. As such, Barlow said that his startup and its investors see a clear opportunity for the first telehealth provider able to offer a wealth of well-implemented features to establish itself in the region’s health care landscape.
“When we get to that point of being able to offer very high quality telehealth consultation with a wait time of no more than two minutes … we really do disrupt and change the whole face of primary health care in this region,” he said.