Dermtest is streamlining medical photo management

We talked with Priit Kruus, the CEO of Dermtest about the story of building up a digital health startup. Priit explained what is the problem they are solving with Dermtest, what is the story behind his decision to become a co-founder, how has the corona crisis affected the startup, what will happen with the healthcare sector in the next couple of years and what he thinks about Sustainable Development Goals.

Limitless supported Dermtest with a revenue-based impact financing in March 2020 to help them quickly build an additional feature called Dermtest Telehealth for their medical photo management toolbox in order to enable contactless care solutions for patients.

What is the problem Dermtest is solving?

“For those who are living in remote areas, getting access to skincare specialists may take a lot of time, effort and money. As a result, the disease or skin problem could develop too far and with more serious cases it might be late to effectively cure the patient. If you discover for example melanoma at an early stage, the treatment cost is on average 15 times lower, and the survival rate can be up to 100%, compared to 40% in latest stages,” said Priit.

How are you solving the problem?

Priit explained: “Dermtest started from building a tool for melanoma detection because it was a problem area specific enough to focus on in order to get going. In 2019 Dermtest expanded their solution and developed a medical photo management toolbox with telehealth capacity, which from a doctor's point of view streamlines the whole diagnosis and treatment process of various skin problems including wounds, ulcers, burns, psoriasis, allergies and even eye problems. Patients on the other hand, can get access to care from the comfort of their home.”

Why did you decide that you want to solve problems in healthcare? Why is it important for you?

“Healthcare is part of who I am,” said Priit. He added: “Before co-founding Dermtest I worked years in the healthcare sector. During my time as a healthcare policy analyst, I saw closely how slow were the top down digitalisation reforms in the sector and wanted to do something to change that. The most impactful way, I figured, was to start changing the system from the bottom up, showing how digital solutions can be built efficiently as a private technology company and have a big impact, while working together with all the relevant stakeholders in the public system.”

From the left: Priit Kruus the CEO and Hannes Lehemets the CTO

What have you achieved so far?

“Dermtest was founded in 2014 and since then we have enabled the management of more than 150,000 clinical cases, including capturing skin and wound images and enabling more than 15,000 remote skin cancer check-ups. More than 300 of early-stage skin cancers have been discovered since then,” Priit said. As a result Dermtest has brought 15M+ euros value to the society,” he added. In addition to skin cancer diagnosis as mentioned above, as of 2019 and 2020 Dermtest is supporting the care of wounds, burns, psoriasis, allergies and alike.

How has corona impacted your startup?

Priit recalls: “At the beginning of the first lockdown in Estonia in March 2020 availability of face to face doctor appointments decreased and many patients had to postpone getting treatment for their issues. We acted fast and developed a new feature called Dermtest Telehealth. The new feature enables patients to send photos of their problem securely to doctors and participate in distant consultations from the comfort of their homes. In a way, the crisis helped us to launch new product offerings and find new health care providers as clients!”
The new additional feature helps East-Tallinn Central Hospital and many general practitioners to provide remote care. The large public hospital with 350,000 patient visits per year helped a lot in quick piloting and launch of the new feature, providing valuable feedback and acting very fast in terms of adoption. This is not a norm in healthcare.

Tell us your future vision for the next 5 to 10 years in the healthcare sector?

“World will be digitising healthcare a lot more, but there will be more thinking about the actual goals. I see that there will be 2 bigger shifts in healthcare: sharing and using more and more historical data about the patients and outcomes based healthcare. First of all, in order to make a successful digital shift, we need data exchange standards and top notch integrations. In the next 5 to 10 years, different digital solutions will be communicating to each other and for that to happen in Europe at least, countries have had to agree on how those different healthcare systems communicate across borders as well.” Priit said.
"The second shift will be towards outcomes based healthcare and prevention with value-based financing. In the future public insurances and governments will incentivise outcomes rather than process. As a result, the overall quality of healthcare provision will increase as well. Patients will get the treatment they really need and providers have incentives to keep patients healthy. Dermtest will play a role in this by offering solutions that help to see the image date of the patient treatment progress along the patient pathway and inform doctors to make decisions, which support the best outcomes,“ Priit added.

Which is the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that Dermtest contributes in? Which one is the most important one?

“Dermtest is contributing to health and wellbeing as we are directly offering a digital solution to streamline getting access to better quality healthcare. Therefore, the main SDG for us is the Goal number 3: ensure health and wellbeing. For me though, the SGDs are a bit too general as a framework. Every company could easily pick one SGD and claim that they are somehow contributing to it. However, the contribution could be just a short-term thing and not really a substantial part of their business model. Therefore, in addition to general statements, I would like to see more detailed metrics a company should follow in order to show their real impact. At Dermtest we are currently following the treatment costs reduced and healthy life-years gained,“ said Priit.

Check out Dermtest’s website to get more information on what they are up to.

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