If you get sick while traveling, TraveDoc, an Uber for healthcare that currently operates in Ghana and Singapore, wants to be your go-to app.
This week, CEO Marcel Muenster told me his company has imminent plans for expansion to the Middle East and South Asia, although he didn’t specify which countries, or even how many. Unlike Medicast, Sherpaa, Doctor On Demand, or One Medical, TraveDoc’s focus on the dynamic global element translates into a somewhat different set of metrics. This could raise some communication issues between the traveler’s doctor abroad and their primary care physician at home, e.g. exchanging information about the patient’s medical history.
But Muenster noted that 99 percent of the uses TraveDoc had seen so far were elective cases, and that only 1 percent required hospitalization, TraveDoc CEO Marcel Muenster well as the fact that more local U.S.-centric models like Medicast were going to have more people coming into the system because of the expansion of Medicaid.
The data seems to back him up. If “the number of house calls increased from 1.4 million visits in 1999 to 2.3 million in 2009,” as Kimberly Bonvissuto noted in May of last year, then the data regarding home visits for states implementing Medicaid expansion this year will be one of the things to watch.
And unlike in the U.S., he added, where you went to a primary doctor and were then referred to a specialist, people in other countries who knew they needed a cardiologist could cut out the middleman and head straight to the cardiologist. TraveDoc’s splash page for Ghanaian doctors speaks for itself in that regard.
The global market for healthcare is becoming a crowded field, with the likes of TanyaDok in Jakarta, Nurse in Romania, On Laboral in Curitiba, Plug Me On in Paris, LiveTrust in Santiago, Harimata in Cracow, and innumerable others. However, Muenster isn’t fazed; he says word of mouth is TraveDoc’s competition, especially with ex-pat communities, where there is a “solid model” to work with.
The data seems to back up Muenster here once again: One recent cross-cultural study conducted in the Netherlands suggests that ex-pats eventually buy the products that they miss. After examining expatriate communities between 1980 and 2009, David Leblang of the University of Virginia wrote in February of last year that “dual citizenship generates larger remittances at the macro and micro levels.”
Pitching TraveDoc to an expatriate community means pitching to the kinds of audiences enumerated in those studies, and it’s why a nearly two-year-old healthcare company is heading to the ITB Convention in Berlin, which bills itself as the world’s largest travel trade show.
TraveDoc seems to occupy an odd space in a narrative landscape of global health usually defined — at its most reductive — by medical anthropologist and co-founder of Partners in Health Paul Farmer, as well as Millennium Development Goals. Muenster said that a startup defines its own space, “and you almost have to have a kind of inner peace to do that.” And, yes, it was a “business,” but he was a cardiologist by training. The patients come first.
Founded in 2012, TraveDoc has received a total of $100K in seed and angel funding.