Somebody find me a doctor!

December 14, 2012

Need a doctor in Costa Rica and don’t know where to look? Want to know if the doctor you chose is recommended and trustworthy?

The digital company HuliHealth, now online, provides patients help with choosing the best doctors and specialists in all areas of health in the country. 

“Our mission is to provide the tools necessary for both Costa Ricans and expats to find the best health professionals based on personal criteria. You can find a doctor by specialty, treatment, cost and location, and then view a doctor’s profile and comments from other patients. You also can make an appointment,” HuliHealth founder Alejandro Vega said.

HuliHealth began as an idea a year and a half ago, when Vega realized that Costa Ricans and foreigners living or visiting here had difficulty finding information about specific doctors. 

“It’s like when you buy shoes or see a movie: You get on the Internet and find information about the shoes or read movie reviews. But that didn’t exist for doctors [in Costa Rica]. We wanted to create a location online where you could find all the information you need,” Vega said. 

The HuliHealth founder took his idea and applied for the 2011 “Intel Challenge,” a competition to promote entrepreneurialism and the use of technology in Latin America. 

Through the program, participants receive training, mentorship and access to the best practices of Silicon Valley, one of the most technologically important regions on the planet. Vega won the Intel Challenge in Costa Rica with his idea for HuliHealth. 

He then sought alliances, built a team and starting creating the site www.hulihealth.com. He selected the country’s best doctors and added them to the online database. To find them, Vega worked with what he calls “leaders of opinion” in different specialties. They in turn recommended the best doctors. 

“We met with the heads of post-graduate studies in cosmetic surgery, dentistry and other fields at the University of Costa Rica, and they helped us choose the doctors. Once doctors are part of the HuliHealth network, they can recommend other doctors. “We only accept doctors through references from other members,” Vega said. 

In addition to reading up on doctors, making appointments and other useful tools, users also can ask doctors questions to help narrow their search. After an appointment, they can rate care and leave comments. Doctors with the best reviews are strategically placed on the site. Plus, patients who make appointments through HuliHealth receive a 5 percent discount on treatment. 

To date, some 125 doctors are registered at the site. 

Dental surgeon Mariela Padilla said she joined HuliHealth for the benefits that come with belonging to a medical network. 

“There are advantages to belonging to a group that is recognized on a national and international level,” Padilla said. She added that patients also win: “One advantage to HuliHealth is that membership is not completely open [to doctors]. You have to meet certain standards, including commitment to providing quality health care and medical ethics, and that says a lot.”

Although Padilla said she hasn’t yet received an appointment through the site, she believes professional networks are essential in the practice of health sciences, and without them, clinics and doctors would have a hard time being successful. 

Ophthalmologist David Flikier said he joined HuliHealth because he found the team that created it responsible and well organized. 

“The tendency is to drift toward the digitalized and globalized world, and we believe that HuliHealth is an option that can put us in contact with more patients and allow us to reach a wider audience, not only in the country, but also in other countries,” Flikier said. 

He said it’s also important to him that HuliHealth only accepts the most recognized and respected doctors, which ensures trust between patients and doctors. 

Down the road, HuliHealth plans on expanding to other countries and managing electronic medical records. 

Said Vega: “We’re constantly improving the site and adding the best doctors.”

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