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Digital dermatology is here

Digital dermatology is here

The days of waiting for an available appointment at a skin clinic may soon be a thing of the past. That’s certainly the case for followers of US-based skincare startup Apostrophe, which announced on Friday that it closed a US$6 million (NZ$9 million) seed round, led by venture capital firm SignalFire.

Since launching in 2014, Apostrophe has provided prescription skincare treatment online. The process is relatively simple: patients send images of their skin to board-certified dermatologists, who respond quickly (within 24 hours), with a personalised treatment plan. The plan can include up to three prescriptions.

Treatments offered by the start-up are skincare-focused – acne, wrinkles, rosacea – as well as eyelashes and hair loss. Online appointments cost US$20 (NZ$30), and that money can then be applied as credit toward prescriptions. Apostrophe has its own pharmacy, where is can create customisable medications for clients, and have them shipped direct.

On the subject of whether over-the-web diagnoses were safe or reliable, co-founder Ben Holder insisted they were. He explained that because skincare diagnoses are generally made through visual assessment, they are the “perfect specialty in medicine to be handled remotely. Dermatology is the best place for Telehealth and we will continually expand within dermatology,” he said.

The telemedicine market is expected to exceed US$64.1 billion (NZ$97 billion) by 2025 in the US, according to Global Market Insights. Targeting a time-poor generation, the convenience of the services, combined with the potential savings on products, demand for the services are likely to expand to other countries, including Australia.

However, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the introduction of skincare-based telemedicine into Australia will likely be a slower process, given the legal and security standards it would need to meet. “While telemedicine appears promising, it should be subject to evaluation as regards costs and benefits before widespread introduction in Australia,” a report by the AIHW said.