Its website and soon to be released app connect travelers and expatriates to local doctors around the world
Being sick is no fun, and being sick in strange cities is just worse. In fact, 64% of travelers experience health problems while abroad.
That is why, after a case of food poisoning in Hong Kong, CEO Marcel Muenster decided to develop TraveDoc. A website and upcoming app, TraveDoc helps traveling patients find quality health care in Munich, Milan, Mexico City, and more. Through the website, a patient can search their current city for the language and service they need from professionals including psychiatrists, pediatricians, dentists, and other specialists.
Muenster and his small research team in Cambridge, Massachusetts launched the service in Ghana, and now they operate in 21 cities across the globe. TraveDoc wants to reach 50 major cities by the end of the year and so far, TraveDoc has received $700,000 in funding. Beyond the U.S. team, a few employees, each based in a different key region, have the job of personally meeting with potential doctors to add to the network.
Mona Mirakhor, the Area Manager of the Middle East and Asia, is currently based in Tel Aviv. She told Geektime, “We meet with every single doctor in the network, check out their offices and make sure they are up to a certain standard. We try our best to find doctors who we see ourselves personally going to.” In this way, she describes, “We like to say we’re the ‘Uber for finding doctors.’”
Ultimately, TraveDoc gives foreigners, who may not be well-acquainted with the expatriate or local community, direct intel of some of the best doctors in the area. Mirakhor, for example, might meet with 10 dermatologists in a city and offer TraveDoc subscriptions to only three.
Digital, but personal
Various services have brought health care to the digital platform. Sherpaa is the doctor in your hand: patients can consult with doctors virtually over the phone, or schedule an appointment. Medicast is the doctor at your doorstep: clinicians come to patients’ homes. Doctor On Demand and HealthTap are the doctors on video chat: patients use their mobile device to chat with doctors remotely.
Though it operates digitally, TraveDoc has nuanced intentions. The company values the in-person advising that has always been the way of health care.
Mirakhor explained, “We think [virtual care] is good, but if a parent has a child who’s sick – even with something as simple as an ear infection – they’re going to want their kid to be seen, because you don’t want to take that chance.”
Travel insurance may cover travelers, but insurance companies don’t help with the process of finding correct doctors. While directories provide lists of local medical options, the extensive list of names is uninformative when it comes to understanding the most qualified or suitable choices.
Going mobile and global
The ambitious goal to expand to 50 cities by the end of the year has to do with two words that resound in this age of apps: mobile and global.
“The world has become increasingly small,” said Mirakhor. “We travel way more than we used to. There’s a lot of need to have access to [this type of health care] in any major city that you go to. Most of what we’re catering to is the younger generation. That means search on mobile and making it global.”
The expansion plans include cities that attract international tourism and large expat communities. TraveDoc wants to reach the globetrotters in popular cities, where the impact is maximized. That way, when travelers take the road most traveled, their contact with quality health care can make all the difference.
While it’s debatable how much this service will be used, particularly since it will depend largely on how much insurers back home will cover access to TraveDoc’s doctor network, TraveDoc does seem to be filling a need. And considering an increasing number of millenials are traveling abroad, and TraveDoc is one of the first digital health companies catering to ex-pats abroad, we can see a potentially bright future of growth for this budding company.