Mobile Teledermatology – Easier Way to Have Your Skin Checked
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer with a very high mortality rate in Sweden, affecting over 3000 people annually and even killing 500 of them. The mortality rate mainly depends on when the cancer is discovered. If detected in its early stages before the cancer metastasizes, it can be easily treated and removed resulting in over 95% patient survival rate. Therefore, early detection and excision is the most important thing when treating skin cancer. However, detection of melanoma can be very difficult not only for general practitioners (GPs), but also for expert dermatologists which often causes long waiting times for patients to be referred to a specialist. Gnosco AB, a Stockholm based m-health startup, has provided a way to bring this specialist expertise to primary care in form of an easy to use mobile telemedicine (teledermatology) platform, Dermicus Mole.
Introducing Dermicus Mole
The platform is CE-certified as a medical device and includes a mobile phone, an iOS application and a server platform. Additionally, modern smartphones can be connected with a dermatoscope for taking high quality microscopic images which increases the diagnostic accuracy up to 50% compared to examining with the naked eye. The platform is aimed for communication between healthcare providers, connecting primary care givers with specialist dermatologists from university hospitals. The GP uses the Dermicus platform to send clinical data and images through a mobile application to the platform which can then be viewed by specialists. Two or more melanoma specialists analyze the data on the platform and produce a standardized report containing the diagnosis within 48 hours. Through the secure platform the GP gets access to the diagnosis and the clinical support on how to manage their patient’s pigmented skin lesion. In case the skin lesion is suspected to be melanoma, the patient is directly referred to the plastic surgeon to remove the skin lesion. This can significantly speed-up the process of removing a suspicious skin lesion compared to the standard face to face consultation and referrals.
Gnosco (Latin for “examine”, “study”, “inspect”) and Dermicus platform was founded by a specialist in dermatology MD, PhD Johan Heilborn in 2010 with the goal of not only improving the healthcare work process in managing skin lesions and decreasing healthcare costs, but also to provide efficient and continuous education, both for dermatology specialists and GPs. In 2012 the first version of the product was launched where several Primary Care centers in Stockholm were connected with the Karolinska University Hospital. Since then, more than 7000 consultations and more than 28,000 images have been delivered by the platform with a lot of positive reactions from both GPs and patients in Sweden. “This is what I call modern medicine! This is superior to getting a referral and wait for 3 months on a visit to the specialist”, said one of the patients.
Currently the company is in the process expanding with the goal of providing the service in other European countries. They are also in the process of developing a new product Dermicus Wound to improve the process managing slow-healing wounds which affects around one fifth of the Swedish population. They have also been selected to the Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science Investment Hotlist which serves as a guideline for investors focusing on disruptive commercial innovation in the life science industry.
Potential Benefits of Teledermatology
Telemedicine has been proven to be an effective way of treating patients which can save a lot of time and costs on both patient’s and care provider’s side. Dermatology appears to be a perfect fit for treating patients through telemedicine since the diagnosis is mostly based on visually examining the patient’s skin which can easily be photographed and sent to a specialist dermatologist for a consultation, especially if these images are taken by a dermatoscope as is the case with Dermicus Mole. Also, melanoma specialist assessments when patients visit a doctor for the first time can result in fewer unnecessary excisions, reduced load on pathology laboratories with improved pathology report response times and decreased health care spending.
Mobile tele-dermatology/dermatoscopy applications enable quick access to specialist expertise without the need for long referrals which can greatly help in the early detection of melanoma. These methods have shown to have a high rate of concordance with the traditional face-to-face consultations, especially with the advancement of mobile devices, improvements in the quality of their built-in cameras and dermatoscopes suitable for being attached to a smartphone. This type of telemedicine can be a great asset for GPs and doctors in reducing healthcare costs and skin cancer mortality rate, but high expertise from the specialists is still essential for its success.