Tele-dermatology is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of the emerging telemedicine market and is probably the one segment with the most immediate potential for mobile telemedicine applications distributed directly to consumers.
DermLink (@derm_link) was a member of the first class of startups at Chicago-based digital health accelerator Healthbox, and one of only few entirely focused on mHealth.
The Silicon Valley-based company is in a highly competitive market, as several startups have emerged to challenge for a very tiny sub-market of telemedicine, though it is one of the best suited to take advantage of current smartphone technologies such as the high-resolution cameras.
I had an opportunity to speak with Victor Gane, CEO of DermLink, after he had returned to Silicon Valley following his three month residence at the River North loft Healthbox 1.0 called home for the first three months of 2012.
One sentence from our conversation jumped out at me as a good articulation of the core value proposition and key differentiator of his company’s mobile telemedicine platform;
“We provide the service of channeling new patients to dermatologists, but also the technology, the integrated software package that allows them to accept patients and to diagnose them.”
What I find particularly compelling about DermLink is the way in which they bring together general practitioners, clinical specialists and patients all together in one well designed platform that elegantly blends mHealth and telemedicine, supported by multiple payment options and accessible across virtually all platforms both mobile and PC. I am a big believer in telemedicine business models which give the physicians something that they can use to shake up the business model of their practices’ by streamlining referrals and generating new consumer-paid cash flow.
I think that’s a big, big opportunity, and DermLink epitomizes this idea of being a great source of new value for patients, general practitioners and clinical specialists – the Holy Trinity of medicine.
The DermLink model is a sophisticated multi-sided platform which brings together the three key participants in any successful telemedicine platform; (1) general practitioners whose patients are presenting with skin conditions that require review by a clinical specialist; the (2) clinical specialists, in this case approximately 9,000 dermatological specialists across the US qualified and capable of accepting a referral, and (3) patients seeking clinical consultation for their unknown skin condition quickly and at a low-cost.
The first image outlines the use-case for general practitioners who either want to use their own iPad to assist a patient through the process of submitting an image for clinician review, or simply want to refer their patients to use DermLink on their own personal devices.
Patients also have the option of self-referral, as the basic app is freely available in the app store, and non-smartphone users can easily use the web app to upload high-quality images to the DermLink platform which automatically forwards the images to an in state dermatological clinician.
CEO Gane’s recent experience prior to c0-founding DermLink includes work as a consultant with the Stanford Center for Integrated Facility Engineering team to conduct on-site analysis of the Hong Kong Light Rail and Subway systems, as well as holding several positions on three separate continents with Chicago-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Victor’s co-founder, Jamison Feramisco, MD, PhD, in addition to serving as DermLink’s COO/CMO, is also CMO of ambitious body area network startup Scanadu (@scanadu), which is aiming to build a medical tri-corder device not unlike the tri-corder used by Capt. Kirk and his crew on the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek.
In the time since my interview with Victor, DermLink has been named as one of the first members of the newly formed StartX Med incubator at Stanford University.
If DermLink starts to get traction they are well positioned to make aggressive moves into other sub-specialties because their core platform for connecting patients to clinical specialists via referrals from GPs and could be replicated and rebranded across numerous sub-specialties quickly. Most importantly, the company has a business model that makes sense right out of the gate; the key barrier for them to overcome in the next 18 months will be driving usage through referrals and high-profile partnerships in large metropolitan areas.