During his 10 years as a dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, David Soleymani said countless patients would ask if they could have done their visit over email or text. After all, dermatologists can often make a quick diagnosis of a person’s skin condition upon first glance of the problem area. The drive to the clinic and sitting in the waiting room are almost always longer than the appointment itself.
So last year Soleymani launched Dermio, an app that lets you take a picture of your skin condition, get a diagnosis from a real dermatologist, and get a prescription sent to your local pharmacy. The service costs $40, and patients get a diagnosis in under 24 hours.
Soleymani, who left Northwestern last summer and founded Dermio Dermatology, a practice in Northwest Indiana, said diagnosing skin conditions via photographs isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea. To pass their board exams, dermatologists have to look at many different conditions on a screen and correctly identify the problem.
“We’re trained to diagnose based on photographs and visuals,” Soleymani said.
Dermio is live in Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, California and Washington, and it’s launching in New York soon, with the plan to eventually be in all 50 states, Soleymani said.
Soleymani said people have used the app to diagnose a range of conditions, and its user base has grown each month.
“I’ve seen everything from acne to skin cancer,” he said. “Literally, you name it.”
If a Dermio dermatologist thinks something could be cancerous or needs more than a quick prescription, the patient is advised to visit an actual clinic.
Dermio has two sides to the app: a consumer side and a clinic side. For consumers, they can download the iPhone app and start their consultation. But on the clinic side, Dermio partners with primary care doctors, often in rural areas where access to dermatology clinics in scarce, and provides iPads for doctors to give in-office Dermio consultations.
Primary care doctors often have trouble diagnosing skin conditions, Soleymani explained, and the Dermio app gives them and their patients 24/7 access to a virtual dermatologists when a brick-and-mortar one may be miles away.
“Those primary care clinics have practitioners that are dealing with skin issues on a daily basis, and they have nowhere to turn,” he said. “But now with the app, they have access to a dermatologist.”
But Soleymani acknowledged that there’s still a reluctance by many who are hesitant to substitute an app for an actual doctor’s visit. Many users will download the app, but not follow through with a consultation, he said. But by partnering with clinics who use Dermio with their patients in-office, Soleymani hopes acceptance of the telemedicine can grow.
“The hurdle we have to get through in telemedicine is the trust factor,” he said. “There’s a sort of skepticism or unfamiliarity with it that maybe prevents a lot of people from exploring it as a possibility. ‘Can I actually get my healthcare from a phone? Is it possible?’
“But the thing that’s great about the clinic side is a doctor is trusting another doctor. If a patient trusts their primary care doctor, they’re going to trust their judgment and their plan.”