Price comparison, a booking engine and an online marketplace – these three phrases are not usually associated with the quest for medical treatment. Not until entrepreneur, Pawel Cebula, asked himself one question and decided to act on the response: why can’t tools that work for other industries, also work for the growing number of medical tourists?
Pawel said “I’d been living in China when I needed emergency dental treatment. It was really hard to find a quality dentist who spoke English.
“Later on I was helping my mother, a doctor in Poland, develop a website for her practice. I could see how difficult it can be for doctors to maintain an online presence.
“These two instances came together and I could see that the same tools that worked for other industries could also work for medical travel.”
Whether motivated by cost, cultural experience or quality of treatment, the number of patients looking to combine travel and treatment is increasing all over the world. Pawel and his fellow entrepreneurs, Ugur Samut and Ieva Soblickaite, had spotted an emerging market and were ready to embark on their first entrepreneurial venture to make medical tourism a viable option for all patients.
In March 2014, after spending a number of months developing the product and connecting with top medical facilities across the world, the trio launched MEDIGO in the start-up hub of Berlin, Germany. Since it’s launch less than two years ago, their online health marketplace has grown tremendously having already connected 15,000 patients with clinics around the world. A steep growth trajectory, but Pawal recognises that their success to date couldn’t have been achieved without others who share their vision. MEDIGO has enlisted the help of a number of experienced and prominent business advisors and received $6.2 million A-round funding in December 2014 led by Accel Partners.
Pawal said “with the help of our experienced business advisors including Peter Read at Google Ventures, Daniel Graf at Twitter and Christophe Maire from Atlantic Internet, we grew into what we are today.”
Beginning with one office in Berlin and a few people, MEDIGO now has 49 employees in 26 countries speaking 20 languages. In 2016, the team hope to grow their Sydney office as well as open an office in the US.
So who are these ‘wandering’ patients making MEDIGO the thriving business it is today?
“We have such a wide range of patients from across the world. From people in their 20s right through to those in their 80s,” said Pawal.
“Reasons for choosing medical travel vary between markets however generally speaking, patients opt for care overseas because it’s more affordable, they can avoid long waiting periods for needed procedures, or particular treatment or specialties are not available in their home country.”
But it hasn’t been a game of reinventing the wheel. According to Pawal, patients have been waiting for some time for a modern approach to healthcare choices – an approach already so familiar in other industries.
“The feedback we get all the time is that patients like to be able to choose when and where they get the treatment that they need,” Pawal commented.
And for the healthcare providers themselves, they are now finding a new lease of life in becoming available to a global audience of patients.
With 48% of Australians saying they would consider travelling for medical treatment according to a recent MEDIGO survey, it would seem that MEDIGO has indeed unlocked a whole new market, previously untapped by technology.