First Derm: App Gives Fast Answers To Troubling Skin Problems, Anonymous and Cost Effective
Dr. Alexander Börve, CEO and founder of iDoc24, spoke with us about the Company’s dermatology triage app, First Derm. Dr. Börve, an orthopedic surgeon by trade, was first clued into the need for dermatology triage over a decade ago after learning how dermatologists were often asked benign yet intimate questions by strangers – “What is this, does this look bad?” It got him thinking – what if there was a way for users to send a photo anonymously to a doctor to get a quick opinion? He’s written four scientific papers on it since, showing how a triage system works to improve efficiency and render cost savings to the health care system.
Keeping with the anonymous theme, users don’t have to log in or sign up for the app. Payment is taken from an already set up account (like via Apple) or payment device (like PayPal or Bitcoin). The app doesn’t collect any personal data (and in accordance, doesn’t spam you).
The idea for a triage app is based on proven models functioning in parts of Europe (especially in the UK and Sweden). In those countries, patients can call a nurse and get their opinion about symptoms. The nurse either escalates the call to a doctor visit or ushers the patient to a pharmacy. For First Derm, instead of nurses, certified dermatologists are used to triage photo queries.
As Dr. Börve describes, “We don’t prescribe – and 80% of users don’t need a prescription, just an OTC medication. Research shows that if you need a prescription, the best form of healthcare is a follow-up or a phone call with a prescribing doctor. We don’t want to replace the doctor. Instead, we want to keep simple (mild acne, pimples, rashes) cases away.”
Other companies in the space are trying to replace the in-person, in-office, patient-doctor interaction either through video conferences or home visits. Dr. Börve explains that for First Derm, “We want to give doctors much better cases, cases they enjoy looking at like psoriasis and skin cancer. Dermatologists are academic and want to learn and treat difficult diseases. We want to take the pimples and wrinkles away and send them the hard cases – and that’s how they also make more money too.”
Because there is no direct relationship between the user and the First Derm dermatologist and there is no diagnosis, First Derm is available in all states and triage can occur cross state lines. “It’s medically sound, cost effective, and something that derms enjoy and patients enjoy.”
The service is offered in multiple languages – English, Spanish, French, Swedish, Chinese, and Italian and the app has been downloaded by people in over 127+ countries. US cases are the majority (over 70%) but they’ve received cases globally, including from Hong Kong, Dubai, China, South Korea, Germany, and Russia.
The Company has ramped up marketing spend, but still grows organically through word of mouth and search optimization. Dr. Börve also spoke about the Apple Health app, “We’d like to work with Apple so that people can upload their cases into the Health app. Right now you can only upload static numbers, and we want the capability to upload pictures and text/answers that we have so that each query will be part of a user’s health record.” While distribution through the iOS App Store is pretty good, First Derm is also expanding through channel partners. First Derm works with the largest pharmacy in Sweden and is running a pilot with Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. This June they will launch a hardware product – a dermoscope, so users can self-check and take photos of potential skin cancer spots.