Over the years, Lebanon has become the Middle Eastern haven for millions of refugees and immigrants fleeing war, conflict and turmoil in their homelands. Its role as the welcoming neighbor became even more prominent after the Syrian refugee crisis.
For the country's nearly two million refugees, various resources can be scarce or unavailable, and access to affordable healthcare services is often one of them. It is a dire situation that Lebanese physician Radwan Massoud wants to change.
Massoud, who is currently a research fellow at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, has launched "What's Up Doc" with a group of fellow experts to provide affordable and easily attainable healthcare access to Lebanon's refugees.
The startup aims to connect patients to qualified physicians through a low-cost phone call or video call that will be directed to an online application on its website, the process could also be followed by an affordable house call if needed.
The service will also include low-cost subscriptions that allow patients to have access to communication with experienced physicians, who will undergo a rigorous screening process and be bound by a patent-pending quality control system.
The startup doesn't aim to only aid refugees however, but also anyone who is in need of affordable access to healthcare in Lebanon. Healthcare services are often too expensive for a large portion of a relatively small population.
"Even though Lebanon is a country with low GDP/ capita (12000$), healthcare in Lebanon is costly. One visit to a doctor can cost up to 7% of the average salary," read the startup's Zoomaal crowdfunding campaign message.
Moreover, the "What's Up Doc" team believes Lebanon's high rate of physicians-per-people, its high numbers of International Medical Graduates (IMG) and the high-quality of education its physicians receive, all serve to make it more than adequately equipped to handle its significant lack of affordable healthcare services.
"We perceive Lebanon to be able to provide affordable and effective medical advice to the Lebanese at the first stage, the MENA region at the second stage and to the rest of the world at the final stage."
Prominent Lebanese politician Nicolas Sehnaoui, as well as Lebanese journalists Dima Sadek and Imad Bazzi, have shown their support for the healthcare initiative on social media.
"What's Up Doc" aims to use the campaign's funds to develop the online platforms which will further facilitate access to the service, with the hope of later expanding the network throughout the Middle East and North Africa.