Egyptian start-up Shamseya empowers people with medical information

Egyptian patients at a health center in Cairo. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 December 2019

Egyptian start-up Shamseya empowers people with medical information

  • Online portal helps citizens find health services and hospitals suited to their needs
  • Aim is to develop new service to allow patients to locate exact services by phone

DUBAI: Cairo-born entrepreneur Ayman Sabae had long wanted to tackle the inadequacies of the Egyptian health care system. But it took the historic events of the Arab Spring to spark his eureka moment.

“It was a very vivid time in my life. For over two weeks, the protesters were put in a position where they had to function as a community to meet their daily needs,” Sabae said of the 2011 Egyptian uprising.

“I saw first-hand how people had to tackle everything from scratch without government help; they came together and created makeshift health clinics to address their own needs.

“It showed me that people are capable of self-organizing based on what people want — not simply because faceless executives decide what is best for them.”

Soon after the Egyptian revolution began, Sabae launched Shamseya, a health startup that puts people at its core.

“I founded my startup with the intention of creating tools that give power to the people,” he said. “Shamseya seeks the creation of a dynamic, community-based health care system.”

Egyptian entrepreneur Ayman Sabae. (Supplied)

According to Sabae, most Egyptians are eligible for social health insurance but much of the population misses out on quality health care due to national inaccessibility of information.

“A lot of people don’t get access to what’s best for them because they don’t know what’s available, they get lost in bureaucracy, or they are worried about the poor quality of services,” he said.

Shamseya, which runs on both grants and private consulting fees, has launched an online portal to help Egyptian patients find the health services and hospitals that are suited to their needs.

The Eghospitals platform is populated with data inputted by NGO or community members who conduct “mystery patient” tests at hospitals.

The results are collated into a comprehensive nationwide portal, which ranks and rates hospitals based on their specialities.

“The idea behind Eghospitals is to hold hospitals accountable with ad-hoc inspections,” said Sabae.

Each hospital receives an online rating, as well as physical signs that can be placed at the hospital premises as badges of trust.

The organization is also working on adding niche ratings, such as youth, women and disability-friendly facilities.

“Historically, there has hardly been any accurate or credible information in Egypt that enables people to make informed decisions about their treatment,” Sabae said.

“In Egypt, people tend to use word-of-mouth for health recommendations but this only reflects subjective experiences; it’s not sufficient for specific treatments. This is why we designed a patient-centric tool for the quality of hospitals.”

Shamseya, which describes itself broadly as a health solutions company, has also developed a platform that allows patient grievances to be flowed through the correct channels.

The platform, Melior, delivers valuable information about complaints to stakeholders across the health care system.

According to Sabae, the organization also has plans in the offing to develop a personalized citizen’s support program that guides people on how best to benefit from the Egyptian health care system.

Dubbed “El Naseh,” the initiative is designed to allow Egyptians to pick the phone and locate the exact services they need.

“The aim is to avoid lots of parallel systems and to maximize the efficiency of the national health care system. It’s about maximizing what we already have in the country,” Sabae said.

“Ultimately, the entrepreneur believes that the sustainability of any meaningful health care reform relies on ensuring full community engagement in the design, implementation and monitoring of the programs.”

Looking to the future, Sabae said: “Ideally speaking, I would hope for the full implementation of a universal health care system that would provide quality health care for all, regardless of their income, gender, geography, or social background.

“The only way this is possible is with a system that listens to the people, gives them choices and allows for feedback. A futuristic health system needs to be patient-centric — this is the only way to build a sustainable health care system.”


• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. 

Bahrain’s Chef & The Whale: Small on space, big on taste

Chef Stephen McGowan is the man in charge of the eatery. (Supplied)
Updated 36 min 7 sec ago

Bahrain’s Chef & The Whale: Small on space, big on taste

  • Chef & The Whale is making waves on Bahrain’s Budaiya Highway

MANAMA: The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at Chef & The Whale is that it’s bijou, for want of a better word. Just a few tables downstairs and a few more upstairs. But, boy, have they packed a lot in. On one wall there are pictures of the farmers and suppliers toiling to produce the high-quality ingredients used. On another is a block of shelves selling local ethical produce, from soap-free cleaning products to recyclable bowls and utensils made from coconut husks and — not to be missed — bags of Bahrain-roasted coffee.

Head up the stairs and there are great photographs representing every country from which there is a dish on the menu. In the upstairs section proper, you’ll find a kids’ corner, complete with fun educational books and toys, as well as a small garden section growing herbs — chilis and the like – some of which are handed over for donations at the regular charity coffee mornings (they’ve just raised almost $4,000 for victims of the Australian bush fires, though beneficiaries are usually closer to home).

The tacos are freshly pressed daily in-house. (Supplied)

On to the food, and there is much to say. The menu has been divided into four sections: Garden — mostly plant-based and all but one dish vegan, with several gluten-free options; Sea — as you would expect, fish and shellfish; Land — meats, chicken and duck; and Heaven — desserts, of course.

I started with the black bass ceviche, which is one of the signature dishes. I have to admit that, for my taste, the lime was a little overpowering and the chili not quite punchy enough. However, the fish was plentiful and perfect and the pairing with mashed avocado takes what would normally be a starter or snack to a dish fit for a light lunch.

The menu has been divided into four sections: Garden, Sea, Land and Heaven. (Supplied)

Next up came the Super Food Bowl and it truly was super. When eating out, I usually shy away from anything that’s promoted as healthy. Let’s face it, even I can put together a reasonably decent salad at home. But, don’t be fooled, this really is something else. There are 15 to 19 ingredients and if you can guess them all, you get a prize — I managed about 12 and even added a couple that weren’t there.

So, here are my correct guesses: roasted pumpkin, carrot and cumin hummus (heavenly), chick peas, soya beans, sun-dried tomatoes, cauliflower, mange tout, puffed black rice, blueberries, green leaves, roasted almonds, various seeds and awesome falafel — crunchy on the outside yielding to a soft, fluffy inner — all topped with crispy kale. The flavor and texture combinations in each mouthful were really outstanding — challenging to the taste buds and superbly filling. For this alone, I would go back.

In the upstairs section proper, you’ll find a kids’ corner, complete with fun educational books and toys. (Supplied)

My next dish was Crispy Kunafa Shrimp Bao — a huge juicy shrimp coated in crunchy kataifi dough and topped with miso mayo, white and black tobiko (flying fish roe) and pickled watermelon rind — yes, they’re even recycling kitchen scraps. The use of a black bao bun rendered this dish visually exciting and the crunch of the savory kunafa coupled with the tangy bite of the tobiko made for a deeply satisfying combination.

The last of my savories — and possibly the best, though I would be hard-pressed to choose — was the Baja Fish Taco. The tacos are freshly pressed daily in-house, you can really taste and feel the difference. And the Baja sauce is definitely not your average — the mayo has been replaced with tofu so the tacos also appear among the vegan dishes. For the purist, this might be a bit of a surprise; I loved the piquancy and texture and it’s good to know there’s another option for those following a plant-based diet.

. On another is a block of shelves selling local ethical produce, from recyclable bowls and utensils to bags of Bahrain-roasted coffee. (Supplied) 

The fish is black bass, lightly battered and cooked to perfection, and the dish comes with small bowls of chopped tomatoes, guacamole and sweet-chili sauce so you can make up your taco to your own preference — I piled them all on and would recommend you do the same.

For dessert I had San Sebastian Cheesecake. Yet another new experience. The crustless, fluffy bottom with the famous baked top was truly divine, another textural triumph which is highly recommended.

And, on a final note, I couldn’t leave without asking about the name. So, the Chef is Chef Stephen McGowan, the man in charge, and the Whale is because this mammal explores all four corners of the earth, as does the menu.