"In the United States, the average wait time for a dermatology appointment is longer than the time needed for melanoma to metastasize. 3Derm Referral helps triage patients at their first point of care."
3Derm's Liz and Elliot are the youngest executives in history to win a Small Business Innovation Research grant supported by the National Science Foundation. The pair have raised over $300,000 in awards and grants in just their first year of operation. Better yet is that their tool, when implemented at pharmacies or other points throughout the country, will ensure that you're not left waiting when something is seriously wrong.
So, yeah, the device is all sorts of awesome for saving your life.
Elliot Swart: So, 3DERM is a 3D dermatology company. The problem we're trying to solve is that right now, dermatologists have too many booked appointments. Primary care physicians are sending on too many patients because they don't want to make that determination of who comes in, who doesn't.
With our system, if you place our 3D skin imager in primary care settings, they can take a picture before every referral, so when someone needs to be seen, they'll get seen instantly. When someone doesn't need to be seen, they don't have to be seen, and it also allows for the spectrum of treatment times and urgency that lies between the extremes.
NIN: Can it be used personally? Could there be a personal version of it for people who know they're susceptible to skin cancers or other rashes, etc?
Liz Asai: That's one of our long-term dreams. So, right now it works at primary care because that way we can go around the reimbursement channels and work with V for Value health systems. But, eventually, we want to make this cheap enough that we can sell it off the shelf of CVS, so one gets it, connects to the local Derm network, and just gets an appointment.
If you want to see how it works, you can see the image here?
It's pretty gross!
Elliot S: It is pretty gross. Try it with the 3D glasses.
That's okay, I can see enough. Yeah, it is pretty gross.
Is the device in operation anywhere already?
Elliot S: So, right now we're setting up a pilot with a local Boston hospital system and they're going to run our device for three months and track different patients and how they move through the system. At the end of the three months we'll be able to say, "Oh, this patient would have waited 40 days for an appointment. Instead we could have told them on Day 1 that they had melanoma and needed to get seen immediately." That program starts in March 2015.
What we've been doing up to this point are clinical studies at, you know, med schools where we'll sit in a dermatology office, screen anyone who comes in with a lesion and then compare the remote review of that to the in-person diagnosis. We've been able to show these images to the dermatologists who work at the clinic for this patient population.
What was the reaction of the first dermatologist to whom you showed this technology?
Elliot S: The very first one, we still had a "Frankenstein" [early, unattractive] model of the imager was, "Okay, yes, we would buy that." So that's kind of where we, we realized we had something. But back then it was more a dermatologists' tool. It was something they could use instead of their IPhone. But now it's really transformed into a triage solution with which we can hit patients at primary care before they move through the whole messy referral situation.
And who came up with that idea to take it to, to move it forward to a "triage" point at which you could assess the urgency of the patient's situtation - a stop-gap step ahead of dermatologists' offices?
Elliot S: It was a team effort. It was all of our advisers, all of our team over the course of maybe 18 months of slowly pivoting to, to this need.
Liz: We were always aware that there would be the element of triage. Like, even when it started as a home monitoring tool, it was always so that when the patient had something unusual they could be seen faster. I think that, as we learned more about the health system, as we got better advisers, it became more apparent that this was the place that the triage was needed.
Elliot S: We developed it from the ground up. And we're now using a hardware contractor for the imager who only builds medical devices. So they're the ones who are ISO Certified so we can ensure that it's a true medical product.