A local innovation case study: In Iran, a tech startup helps get rid of fake doctors
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 a SMS confirmation. On the doctor side, s/he can choose to manage appointments strictly online or confirm them via SMS.
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 Iran and Shafajoo is trying to address this pain point.
One of the biggest problems Iranians face is the forgery of diplomas. Indeed, a lot of supposedly doctors are practicing medicine even though they didn’t finish university or did not even go to med 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. A lot of forgers have therefore “borrowed” the names of those deceased doctors and printed fake diplomas to put in their offices. And since asking your doctor if his/her diploma is real would be seen as a sign of disrespect, “fake doctors” are not necessarily 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 the team so far 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).
In conclusion, with the medical fraud cases rising, a 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.
A platform such as Shafajoo would solve a similar problem in China or the Middle East, as diploma mills is a rampant problem. 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 found using fake degrees.