Two Australian doctors have collaborated in creating a new telehealth web portal to provide dermatologist services to rural and regional Australia.
Dermo Direct Co-founders Dr Christopher Ross and Dr Dev Tilakaratne decided to band together for a real-time telehealth video consultation service as they aimed to bring dermatology to those who would otherwise struggle to access such care – due to distance, mobility, being short on time or other issues.
“We created Dermo Direct to help with the follow-up of our pre-existing country patients and for any rural patients that have limited access or have to pay a lot of money to travel and see visiting dermatologists across various parts of Australia,” Ross told HITNA.
“A lot of dermatology diagnosis is visual, so this service speeds up diagnosis and management.”
Dermo Direct covers all dermatological cases but has limitations on skin cancer checks or skin lesions suspected of being connected to skin cancer.
Ross said unlike other telehealth platforms, Dermo Direct brings the web-based portal direct to patients, as the GP isn’t also required to be present to coordinate care.
“We ask the GPs for referrals direct to our service. All the patient then has to do is log on to our website and input their information, photos, or any other data necessary and book an appointment with a dermatologist,” he said.
“Using a smartphone, tablet or computer with the usual microphone, camera and speakers that you would use for a standard video call such as Skype, Gruveo or Facetime, we then have that consultation with the patient.
“The resulting bloodforms are electronically sent to the patient’s email, while a letter of diagnosis goes to the patient and to their GP. Not all pharmacists accept electronic copies, so at this stage, we also send them a hard copy of the prescriptions through mail,” he said.
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Ross said none of the teleconference videos are recorded but the notes and photos from the telehealth consultations are kept on a server in Darwin Dermatology, a private clinic that Tilakaratne runs.
“We treat patient information just as how we would in a face-to-face consultation. As for the photos sent through the system, they are stored in a compliant program and the patients are given the option of uploading them when they first book online.
“From a patient’s perspective, nothing changes because we treat the photos that they send us how we would if we took them ourselves in a clinic and uploaded them onto the system,” Ross mentioned.
Dermo Direct is predominantly targeted at Australians living in rural and remote parts of the country, but isn’t only limited to patients in those areas.
“As the Medicare rebate still exists for rural patients, and those in nursing homes, for example, the out-of-pocket cost isn’t as much as them having to see a visiting dermatologist. The website is set up to see if a patient is eligible to use the rebate, using their postcode.
“The service is also eligible for those residing in cities, but they wouldn’t be covered by the Medicare rebate, so their out-of-pocket would be much higher. But sometimes the waiting time to see dermatologists can be up to six months in cities, so they can opt to use this service instead.”
Currently, Ross and Tilakaratne are the only two dermatologists currently available on the platform, but Ross mentioned that there is capacity to bring on board other dermatologists if the platform picks up pace.
Moving forward, Ross also said he envisions for Dermo Direct a reach beyond just dermatology.
“We would like to get other specialists involved with telemedicine as well, to amplify efficiency for both a business model and a patient model,” he added.