During our trip to Iran, we met the founders of Shafajoo.com, a local startup based in Tehran. Shafajoo means “health/cure finder” in Persian and their goal is to improve healthcare access across Iran by providing a user-friendly platform that enables patients to search and book appointments with their preferred healthcare providers in a few simple clicks. At the moment, their system allows users to book appointments online and receive an SMS confirmation. On the doctor’s side, s/he can choose to manage appointments strictly online or confirm them via SMS.

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Iran’s Diseased Medical Industry

Finding a doctor in Iran is a very complicated process, as people usually rely on research and word of mouth and the Pareto’s Law prevails, where 20% of the doctors see 80% of the patients. There is a need for structured information about health related professionals and providers in and Iran startup Shafajoo is trying to address this pain point.

One of the biggest problems Iranians face is the forgery of diplomas. Indeed, a lot of phoney doctors are practicing medicine even though they either didn’t finish university or did not even go to medical school at all. The Shafajoo team was telling us that the list of official certified doctors that you can get access to is 20 years old, which means that a lot of doctors on this list are either not practicing medicine anymore or dead.

Therefore, a lot of forgers have “borrowed” the names of those deceased doctors and printed fake diplomas to put in their offices. And since asking your doctor whether his/her diploma is real would be seen as a sign of disrespect, “fake doctors” are often not found out. The government has an updated list of certified doctors but is unwilling to share it as it apparently contains very sensitive information. Every doctor who wants to be listed on Shafajoo has to upload their diploma and so far, the team has been double checking with universities to make sure the doctors listed have graduated and are allowed to practice medicine. I believe Shafajoo can become instrumental in providing more transparency in the healthcare system in Iran.

Lastly, we were told that there are 40,000 “unemployed” doctors who are not practicing medicine in Iran right now. A service like Shafajoo would be a great marketing channel for the doctors who cannot find customers (80/20 Pareto Rule).

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Shafajoo is the Iran startup which brings a solution in healthcare

In conclusion, with medical fraud cases risinga high number of unemployed doctors, the lack of transparency on doctors’ backgrounds and the difficulty to get an appointment in person or via telephone, Shafajoo resolves many pain points for customers but also doctors, clinics and hospitals. With the rise of medical tourism in Iran, Shafajoo has the potential to become the most reliable platform between healthcare professionals and patients in Iran.

An Iran startup as Shafajoo would solve a similar problem in China or the Middle East, as diploma mills are rampant problems there as well. Recently, a list of 100 fake universities in China was revealed in the press and in the Middle East, it has been reported that about 620 Saudi govt employees were found using fake degrees.

Contributed by Natalie Copuroglu, co-founder of Secret {W} Business, a community for women entrepreneurs, innovators and change makers in Asia Pacific. She is also a freelance web designer and a co-curator for TEDxSingaporeWomen. Check out her comprehensive blog of innovation ecosystems and entrepreneurs from around the world.