200,000 users later: How Tefly went from a reminder app to a healthcare provider

The number of pediatricians in Egypt is not proportional to the number of infants which restricts access to healthcare for many children in need

In a country known for its dense population, healthcare services are expected to keep up with the pace of the growing population.

The status quo
Commenting on Egypt’s population growth, real estate firm Colliers International states: “As a result of an increase in the total population, those between 0 to 19 years have increased further from 13.5 million in 1960 to 38.2 million in 2015, which is expected to increase to 50.9 million in 2050.” It adds: “The accumulative effect creates demand for healthcare facilities and services relating to mother and childcare (obstetrics, gynaecology, paediatrics, etc.), alongside the common prevailing communicable and some non-communicable diseases.”

Around 34 percent of Egypt’s population consists of children under the age of four, according to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), but there is less than one physician per 1,000 residents in Egypt, the World Bank revealed in 2016.

Hence, a lot of mothers and fathers are concerned about the healthcare provided to their children.

The problem
Pediatrician Mai Saad explains that the number of pediatricians in Egypt is not proportional to the number of infants which restricts access to healthcare for many children in need.

While the availability of doctors remains an issue, being able to afford a physician’s appointment is the true challenge amid stagnated incomes and a soaring economy in Egypt. “This fact makes medical care unaffordable and inaccessible,” Saad adds.

With the floatation of the Egyptian pound in November 2016, among other economic strategies, and the lack of financial resources, mothers turn to alternative ways in search of medical consultancy. Due to the lack of medical awareness, “mothers call pharmacists to ask for diagnosis rather than medical advice which puts the infants’ lives at risk,” Saad explains in frustration.

“I also faced many cases in which mothers asked me to prescribe antibiotics, ignoring the health risks they could have on a 4-month-old baby,” Saad highlights.

Moreover, if there are no pediatricians available, mothers refer to medical advice via social media networks or online forums, among many other uncredible sources.

Tefly wants to provide affordable and accessible healthcare services to every mother in Egypt and the MENA region

The solution
Having monitored these behaviors while working as a pediatrician, Saad decided to launch a tele-medicine platform dedicated to raising awareness among all mothers in Egypt and the MENA region by delivering accurate medical information.

That is how Tefly was born, allowing mothers and fathers to communicate with specialized pediatricians around the clock and get answers to any questions they have regarding the health of their child.

“We want to provide affordable and accessible healthcare services to every mother in Egypt and the MENA region,” she tells Business Forward.

The initial idea started as a tool to empower mothers by asking customized questions to get accurate medical advice for the least possible fees.

“In 2014, I launched an application that includes alerts of all vaccinations to notify mothers of the required dosages for their children along with a customized Q&A via SMS, allowing pediatricians to reply based on the submitted questions,” Saad says.

The scaling
Although the application was downloaded over 200,000 times, the platform sought more reach and engagement in order to reach out to more mothers across Egyptian cities.

“At that point, I knew I was lacking a business background as I noticed other applications growing faster than my own,” Saad explains. “So I started learning digital marketing until I received a seed funding round from Cairo-based venture capital Kamelizer in 2017.”

Today, the application hosts nine advisory doctors increasing the response rate to 80 percent. The application was offered for free until February, allowing users an opportunity to try it out. It also provides mothers with articles, tips, medical advice and videos.

In order to offer a fully-fledged service, Tefly formed partnerships with Tabibi 24/7, a healthcare service treating patients in their homes, to expand their network and receive referrals of cases that need to be hospitalized.

By being present at the fingertips of worried parents, Tefly is tapping into a massive market in Egypt, and fulfilling a need that is otherwise hard to attain.

“We definitely still need support through digital marketing and offline events to reach more people,” Saad concludes.

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