Monday, February 3, 2014

Startups Got Talent - Where we are going?

Nothing beats a sincere feedback from one of our users, because a startup is a journey of iterations and lessons where feedback is where the loop closes. Yesterday Hussein Fahmy, a prominent Egyptian technologist who works at IBM in Vienna started "Startups Got Talent" blog, which in Hussein's words aims to highlight Egyptian and Arab startups that are working on tough problems to shed the lights on something that's not very welcomed in our region "Ideas".

Hussein's feedback is very important to us, first it is one of the few feedbacks we get from people who are not related to one of the team members in one way or another, second because it comes from someone who is a technologist at heart, and finally because from what I read it is a very comprehensive review with focus on all parts of the website and areas to improve.

What I liked the most, is the improvements part, Hussein suggested some improvements on the website to make the service more useful to both users and doctors. I will highlight the points here and comment on them, and mention some other feedback points we got from other users that are worth discussing

  • "The way the system makes sure the information is valid. Currently, the doctors send their information and then the website team get in contact with them. This process could be automatized somehow." - As we speak, we are launching the doctor registration module, so now doctors will be able to register themselves without us having to contact them and collect the information. It was a matter of priorities and we decided to release the new version without it but now it is ready. There is no way to automate the verification, but there are some easy ways like for example cross referencing the info with the physical directories (from insurances, and syndicates). The most important info to be verified are the Specialty, Medical Degree, Phone, and Address, without them we can't list the doctor on the website.
  • "The security done on the sign up process ( Passwords rules, validation of emails .. etc.)." - That's a very good point, we have some basic validation on emails but actually majority of our registrations are by Facebook, so if you registered on Facebook with an email then definitely you verified it. We also send you a verification link to verify the ownership of the email. For the password you don't need it when signing with FB. We encrypt all the passwords before adding them to our database to ensure their security, and we might in the future tightens the password rules making users use more complex passwords.
  • "The website functionality itself can be extended to allow direct reservation with the doctors online. The website can then take a commission from the reservation." - We started Ekshef as an online booking service for doctors, then after researching we found a very successful startup in US called ZocDoc which does online booking for doctors. Our first version allowed online booking but we couldn't market the service to doctors plus it didn't appeal to them because of their messy schedules and patients no shows and latency. We decided to take this down in the next release and focus on recommendations. Now one of our competitors is trying to implement the online booking and I personally tried it four times and it failed to book me the appointment because they had to call  the clinic to confirm and most of the time the clinic is closed and there is no assistant to pick up the phone. Online booking is still one of our options but if we ever go to implement it it will have different implementation from ZocDoc and our competitors. 


Screenshots from the second version of the website. Ekshef 2.0
  • "The rating system of the website could allow reviews to be written about their experience with the doctor. While it can be a bit misleading but this can enhance interactivity on the website." - We also had ratings and reviews in the second iteration and we decided to take it down, back then we had very small traffic and the number of doctors was very small (800 compared to 10,000 now). We didn't have a good way to motivate the users to rate and review and the experience was not that good. Yet, this is the most requested feature by users and we will work on releasing it in a different way to solve the reviews problems (Verification of reviews, Spam, Motivation for the users, Moderation and Reporting...etc).
  • "The website could provide a version in English especially for expats who are living in Egypt and are trying to find a doctor in Egypt. It's not an easy task for Egyptians, imagine how simpler it would be for expats to use this tool." -  Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. - Steve Jobs. While I know this feature is very valuable to some users, yet our traffic comes from Google where people search in Arabic for doctors. Also our research confirms that Egyptians don't look for doctors in English, which if we invested a lot of time and money at the moment will not bring that much ROI to us in terms of traffic and reviews. On a side note: The website is developed to allow translation easily and the database contains fields for English fields like English Name, English Address...etc. So when the time is right, we will do it.
There is still much more work to do, but since we already opened the topic, here is my summary of features and our broad vision for Ekshef.
  • Our focus now is on the doctor side, we are rolling out the doctor registration, plus a new service for doctors to get premium profiles for a yearly fee. After this we are working on improving our recommendation engine to include other factors not only favoring such as profile visits, profile completion, location relevance..etc.
  • We are testing a new feature where you can send a doctor's contact details in a SMS to your phone. This will be a pilot and if it succeeds we will roll out the feature. This will help us more in linking the web to mobile plus it will help our recommendation engine knowing the doctors people are looking for.
  • The ratings and reviews are coming back, but promise it will be different this time.
  • Another feature that is requested many times by users is the symptoms checker, many people feel the pain but don't know which specialty to go to. There is a couple of decent Arabic symptoms checkers by Webteb and Altibbi. These are Jordanians Arabic Medical websites and their symptoms checkers are very decent, we can either integrate with one of them or build our own. So far there is no place for this feature in our roadmap but it is worth paying attention to.
  • Many doctors requested a way to keep electronic medical records EMR. While this is a very complicated business and has so many variables, we are considering this and might start with something very basic where doctors can only write few notes and upload a couple of documents. So far this also hasn't been in our roadmap but it is considered for future releases.
  • Mobile apps & sites is a must. That's the most important scenario for an Ekshef user.

I hope it is not long read, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. As you see, we are very open to all feedback and ideas. If you have any questions or requests don't wait to contact us through http://facebook.com/ekshef or send us an email at contact@ekshef.com. 

Ekshef Team

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