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Can these startups enable better healthcare in Qatar?

The FIFA World Cup saw Qatar upgrade its healthcare and technology sectors. Now startups in the space are leveraging the exposure and resources for innovative disruptions.

Can these startups enable better healthcare in Qatar?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

From providing 24/7 online and offline care through a super app to using artificial intelligence to manage chronic conditions to applying data analytics to monitor blood pressure – there is a surge of innovation in the health tech sector in Qatar.

The country’s FIFA World Cup preparations focused on upgrading healthcare and technology infrastructure to cater to the 1.4 million fans. This attracted the attention of startups and businesses to seize the opportunity.

“We are seeing collaborations across different sectors, such as sports and health, and increased investment in health tech companies. We expect to see even more growth and innovation in this space,” says Hesham Elfeshawy, co-founder and CEO of At Home Doc, which developed the super app Metadoc to provide 24/7 virtual and in-person healthcare. 

Launched in 2016, the Qatar-based platform secured $1.9 million in a pre-series A round earlier this year, with support from the Qatar Development Bank and other angel investors. Now, its new Metadoc clinics – only accessible through the app – ensure patients do not have to wait too long to get appointments.


According to Elfeshawy, the health tech sector in Qatar has vast growth potential, particularly in remote patient monitoring, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and personalized medicine. He says that the Qatari government’s significant investments in healthcare infrastructure, including the construction of new hospitals and healthcare centers, create new opportunities for health tech companies.

“This has also led to a push at the entrepreneurship level and sparked the launch of several health tech startups in Qatar, some of which have expanded globally. For instance, Meddy (a Doha-based doctor booking platform), supported by the Qatar Science and Technology Park, was acquired by a big health tech firm in Africa,” says Ramzan Al Naimi, the founder of tech hub Innovation Café, adding that Qatar Development Bank has also been supportive of healthtech projects by allocating funds.

Droobi Health, another startup making strides in health tech in Qatar, has developed one of the world’s first bilingual digital health therapeutics solutions to help prevent or manage chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity. 

“Droobi fortifies adherence to physician-guided treatment plans by developing a digital solution that puts the patient at the center of the health ecosystem,” says Dr. Jacob Mathew, the COO of Droobi Health.

The startup collects vital clinical metrics supplemented by everyday lifestyle practices and leverages this data to bring about transformative change, employing scientifically endorsed behavior modification techniques.  

“We can anticipate significant steps in our remote patient management abilities, propelled by data-oriented insights and personalized interventions,” adds Mathew. The startup is now setting the stage for AI integration to enhance the capabilities of its human coaching team.

In the near future, Elfeshawy’s At Home Doc plans to continue investing in primary care, “offering a range of services including virtual appointments, house calls, in-clinic appointments, prescription refills, and delivery, as well as lab home service.”


The potential of Qatar’s health tech market has also attracted the attention of investors and accelerators in recent years. Aicha Ghaffari, Ecosystem Builder and Programme Manager at Qatar Insurance Group highlights the significant interest in health tech among applicants for this year’s MENA Insurtech Competition.

Qatar Insurance Group started the competition in January, and in just a few months, it received around 330 applications, of which 25% were health tech startups. 

“These included telemedicine platforms and AI-powered diagnostic tools that can analyze medical images such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans with high accuracy. These AI systems help in detecting abnormalities and aiding early diagnosis. There were also Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems which digitize and centralize patient health records, making them easily accessible to healthcare providers,” says Ghaffari.

Shada Bennbaia, the founder of Pulsate, was among the winners of this year’s competition, and her startup provides continuous blood pressure monitoring with AI-driven analysis and personalized insights.

“Healthcare has been very conservative. We only look at healthcare inside the hospital, but we can effectively track and manage any chronic disease before that. That is where my research began on different types of sensors and data analytics techniques to understand why we don’t have continuous blood pressure measurement till now, and we now have an up-and-coming technology,” says Bennbaia.


She points out that while healthtech startups in Qatar are mainly in the space of appointments and reaching out to healthcare providers, the country is now “focussing on developing technology for research projects and making them a reality.” 

During the pandemic, Qatar Foundation’s World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) also witnessed many applications linked to Covid-19 for its innovation program. Over the past few years, says Maha El Akoum, Manager of Policy and Content Development at WISH, “We have also noticed an increased emphasis on innovations that are focused on genetics and AI-based solutions.”

And now, asserts El Akoum, “it is imperative that we build on the gains made during the pandemic in terms of forging innovation aspirations and ensuring that we have the mechanisms in place to execute them and bridge the gap between patient and clinical adoption of new technologies.”

Both Ghaffari and Dr. Mathew acknowledge the “rapid growth” in the healthtech sector not just in Qatar but in the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, “driven by several factors such as increasing healthcare demands, government initiatives, and a rising entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

“Countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are at the forefront of this growth. In the future, we can expect innovations and emerging firms in areas such as AI in healthcare, precision medicine, remote patient monitoring, digital therapeutics, blockchain in healthcare data management, and personalized healthcare solutions,” says Ghaffari.

However, stresses Dr. Mathew, the focus on patient health information protection and ethical considerations should go hand-in-hand with technological advancements to ensure a sustainable and secure digital health future.

Recently, I listened to Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, when he visited Qatar. His words resonated with me when he spoke of a future where every disease could be cured. This is the fascinating time we find ourselves in. However, as we embrace the digital transformation of healthcare, we must not lose sight of the quintessential human element. 

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