Breaking the barriers between travelers and healthcare institutions

    PokDok aims to empower travelers seeking for healthcare services abroad.

    Getting sick during a vacation leads usually to some extra stress if you need to get any medical assistance. The process of searching information of the local service providers online, from your travel agent, from the hotel – or your insurance company might take a lot of time (which one doesn’t have in case of emergency). You can’t also always tell right away, if you should use the public or the private healthcare services.

    There’s a lack of information about local healthcare options for travelers at the moment, and this is what Finnish startup PokDok aims to help its users with. PokDok is a comprehensive information platform built to connect the travelers with healthcare services through a web portal and mobile devices. It’s developed by individuals who have lived in 17 different countries and traveled to a total of 62 countries all over the world – And also faced the inconveniences while searching for medical services abroad.

    The location-based platform changes the power relations between the consumer and the regional service providers as the user has the possibility to choose what are the most important factors for him or her in seeking for medical assistance. The selection criteria can be filtered based on a specific location, opening hours, services offered or customer ratings.

    “At least for now we moderate the platform and check the companies or organizations ourselves to ensure they have the qualifications for providing healthcare services. The social aspect comes in on PokDok through rating, since the users can share their experiences about using local services with their peers,” says Jussi Iipponen, the CEO and Co-Founder of PokDok.

    Piloting in an island – Aiming to get global

    At the moment, PokDok is running a pilot in Malta, and Iipponen says they’ve received a lot of positive feedback. Piloting in a small and isolated island with diverse users has been a great learning experience for the company.

    “In Malta, we got the perfect combination of local users as well as travelers,” says Iipponen about the island built around modern technology – And where thousands of expats from around the world live.

    Although tourism covers around 80% of Malta’s GDP, Iipponen emphasizes that their platform is also useful also for the local citizens.

    “Our punchline is that wherever you go, PokDok will help you in locating the services. So it can be very helpful for instance to a local person searching for a doctor in the other side of the island. Malta is also a good place to test how our location system works since there’s no numbers marked on the buildings on the street side. One significant factor in going to Malta was also that the service could be launched in English.”

    PokDok piloting was started in the beginning of August in Malta. Photo: PokDok

    In September after the piloting period, PokDok team continues to develop the platform even further to reach their goal of getting global. Iipponen tells that at first, they’ll add the feature of connecting your insurance profile to the application. This feature enables that a user can scan through PokDok what public and private healthcare providers are available for use with one’s existing travel insurance in different locations.

    “We’ll continue to concentrate more on how we can match the local institutions with the personal insurances. This is how we’ll get more information to the owners of insurances about payment methods for instance.” In addition to private insurances, the service can be connected for instance to EHIC-card of EU-citizens.

    PokDok aims to launch the service in 25–30 new locations by the beginning of next year – And during the rest of the year 2016 they want to get global. “We have built up our system so that scaling up isn’t a problem for us. We’ll also always launch the platform in the local language of every destination,” says Iipponen.

    Nevertheless, in the heart of PokDok’s business is to help people to get medical treatment more easily while traveling –And that’s basically making the whole process more convenient through providing information to the users. Of course a travel insurance has a role in enabling that, ponders Iipponen:

    “It’s unbelivable how many Finnish people still travel without insurance. Maybe with PokDok we can also increase knowledge of how important it is to have an insurance if anything happens while discovering the world.”