A limited strategic resource under threat

In October 1973, the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) declared an embargo on oil exports to countries around the world. The result was a 400% increase in the price of oil and global economic, social & political chaos (the “First Oil Shock”).

Two years later, the United States opened the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which today has a capacity of 727 million barrels and exists for one purpose: to mitigate any future disruptions to the oil supply.

Other countries soon followed, and today most countries which can afford it stockpile petroleum, gold, key commodities, and, in the case of Canada, even maple syrup (seriously).

Like petroleum and gold, doctors are a limited strategic resource for every country in the world: essential for the normal functioning of the economy, the government, and society at large.

But rather than maintaining a strategic surplus, most countries in the world have an under-supply of doctors (and other healthcare professionals) in the best of times.

With the spread of the Covid-19 virus, this critical shortage of doctors is being tested like never before. Those working at the front line of care are particularly vulnerable. Not only to the flood of patients but to the Coronavirus itself, and when infected doctors are quarantined, the shortage is exacerbated

For those who know me and my colleague, Dr. Victor Vicens, and the company we co-founded, Abi Global Health, none of this is new. Our founding mission was to more efficiently and effectively allocate the limited strategic resource of physician time.

Abi, our medical microconsultation service, has helped tens of thousands of people avoid unnecessary medical visits with a simple formula:

One minute of an Abi doctor’s time can save at least 15 minutes of another doctor’s time more than 70% of the time.

The net result is a >60% reduction in physician time per patient, significantly reducing healthcare costs and increasing physician availability.

Abi can play a critical role in reassuring, informing, and diverting people from unnecessary medical care.

Of course the very thing that makes Abi so effective — the convenience of text-based interactions with real doctors via WhatsApp, Telegram, SMS etc. — also has inherent limitations. Abi is not appropriate for diagnosing or treating disease. However, Abi can play a critical role in reassuring, informing, and diverting people from unnecessary medical care.


Abi is already making a difference by reducing the pressure on physicians and healthcare systems in the ten countries where we operate (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia & Hong Kong).

All of us can play our part to protect and support the doctors working in our communities: by following the public health guidelines pertaining to Coronavirus; by not spreading false or misleading health information; and by choosing the most efficient & effective means to address any medical concerns.