Digital platform Atlas plans for growth as pandemic drives more Romanians towards remote health services
Atlas, a digital platform offering health and wellbeing services, has seen an increased number of users this year against the backdrop of the lifestyle changes the pandemic brought on. This year it launched telemedicine services and made the platform available to the public in Bulgaria, and plans to further expand its services and the team of specialists.
Atlas, which launched on the local market in 2016, started as a platform offering psychotherapy and emotional health services online. It now gathers verified and licensed specialists in psychotherapy, nutrition, coaching, parenting, and financial counseling, offering support to private users and to those in the corporate area, through partnerships with companies in retail, banking, IT, or the non-profit sector, as is the case with the social partnerships with NGOs Asociatia Magic and Little People Romania. This spring, it launched telemedicine services, with 250 doctors available on the platform.
Between March and July, the atlas.app platform saw a 200% growth in the number of users. Most of them, some 75%, requested psych-emotional support in online, one-to-one conversations with psychotherapy specialists but also support in the areas of parenting and coaching, especially during the state of emergency. Another 25% opted for telemedicine, nutrition, or financial counseling services.
The number of times the platform was accessed continued to grow since August as the need for the services it offers and the public’s awareness of them increased.
“We are living a new and different reality, but regardless of how the world changes from one day to another, health was, is, and will be our main concern. We want to be here for people, to give them quick access, wherever they are, to doctors and licensed specialists who can provide instant help. It might sound like a cliché, but this is the purpose of Atlas, and this is why we continue to develop constantly – to manage to take care of people on all levels,” psychiatrist and Atlas co-founder Mihai Bran explains.
Besides the corporate clients part, Atlas started promoting better its retail services, which target individual users, especially in the psycho-emotional support area.
This spring, it partnered with Medicover Romania for a service providing access to video consultations. Recently, it launched a partnership with NN, offering access to advice from Atlas specialists and free digital instruments to help users improve their wellbeing. “We want to increase the client base for which the platform’s services are available, and in this respect, we are open to other strategic partnerships,” Bran says.
Part of the platform’s mission is to educate against bias and preconceptions regarding mental health and make it easier for people to access the care they need. “We wish to contribute to educating people. On all levels. It is hard to change prejudices, especially in the mental health area, but it is not impossible, and we are glad to see that lately more people choose to speak about their mental health issues and seek specialized support.”
Even before the pandemic hit, the telemedicine and telepsychology services were easier to access, but the pandemic drove many more to give telemedicine a try because of the limits on physical interactions and the fear of contagion. “The feedback to the launch of the platform was a very good one, and the platform registered exponential growth over the past years. Romanians are increasingly open to digital solutions, and we expect the adoption rate to increase.”
This August, Atlas expanded to Bulgaria in a partnership with Synevo, with 50 doctors available to offer advice to the public in the neighboring country. “The public in Bulgaria is, like the one in Romania, in the educating phase, but they react to incentives we have come to discover by testing various messages and communication strategies. So far, it is accessed to a degree similar to the one in Romania, but we are still in a phase of testing and understanding the market, as we said previously. Our purpose is to offer, together with our partner, an optimal experience for telemedicine services to both doctors and patients.”
At the same time, the experience of expanding to Bulgaria is also a learning opportunity as the platform plans to reach other markets as well. The platform is currently available in seven languages - Bulgarian, Croatian, English, French, Greek, Romanian, Spanish - and German will be added soon. “From the very beginning, we wanted the platform to be scalable and easy to use in other markets. Some of the available languages show our intention to enter with partners into those markets (Croatia, Greece).”
The most used languages on the platform are Romanian and English, and the users are mostly Romanians located in Romania, but also in the diaspora. Atlas also has users in the UK or Norway. Ninety percent of the specialists are Romanians, and many of them deliver sessions for external users, but there are also doctors and specialists from Bulgaria and other European countries.
Atlas expects to see an exponential increase in the adoption rate of telemedicine services as the legislation on these services was announced this November.
“The doctors are a bit more reticent, but from the moment of the legislative regulation of the telemedicine services – which was recently announced -we expect the adoption rate to increase exponentially. The patients were quick to see the advantages of telemedicine and adopted the service faster. The feedback from users and the measured satisfaction rate of 4.9/5 encourage us to continue and to try to improve and diversify our services,” he says.
Atlas plans to increase the number of specialists available on the platform but also the services they offer. From the more than 1,000 specialists currently registered on the platform, it plans to reach up to 5,000 by the end of 2021.
“We plan to consolidate the network of partners and specialists and increase the client base in the corporate area. At the same time, for next year, we plan to expand our services to other markets. And, most of all, to reach as many people as possible and that they know we are there for them to help things get (even) better, to ask for help, regardless of the things they face,” Bran says.
Looking back on the entrepreneurial experience so far, the co-founder says this year’s transition to telemedicine was a smooth one. “We started as a psycho-emotional health solution, and afterward, it was relatively easy for us to expand to telemedicine as well. Our experience of more than four years with mental health services had its say, and the transition was relatively easy. Now we have a scaling challenge, but also ones related to increasing the team and standardizing the services we offer.”