Introducing new technology in the healthcare sector isn’t easy. Often, lots of research – and thus money – are needed before a market introduction takes place. We talked SkinVision, the startup behind an app for checking risky moles, about the barriers and challenges.
SkinVision seems to be on the right path: it has recently received an investment of 3 million euro by Danish pharmaceutical company LeoPharma, its recruiting for extra people in their Amsterdam office and it’s the first digital health app with CE certification.
SkinVision’s app, in short, provides an online assessment of risky moles, which is based on one high-quality picture. This method can detect melanoma, a very aggressive type of skin cancer, with an accuracy of 7 out of 10. Early detection is important, because the skin cancer can be treated easily and at less cost if detected early. Pictures can be saved in a personal gallery, so changes in moles can be followed over time. Another functionality will be introduced soon: patients can contact a dermatologist via the app.
Why is it difficult to introduce new technology in healthcare? CEO Dick Uyttewaal says: “Many of the important positions in hospitals and clinics are executed by persons above the age of 40. These persons didn’t grow up with technology, they didn’t have a smartphone from a young age. They don’t appreciate new technology as much as younger people do.”
“However, I’ve seen changes in the last few years. More and more younger doctors are getting positions of influence. So, change occurs naturally. When I visited a medical conference two years ago, almost everyone was sceptical about the use of technology for the detection of skin cancer. Nowadays, the discussion is more nuanced: some doctors are contra, others are pro.”
Value of technology
Is SkinVision actively trying to convince the doctors who are contra? Uyttewaal: “Yes, we are investing a lot of time and money in research, in cooperation with dermatology clinics. If results are positive, this will confirm the value of our technology. Also, SkinVision has a scientific board consisting of dermatologists from renowned clinics worldwide, for example from the largest European dermatology clinic, which is located in Munich. It’s important to have good connections in the field.”
“What’s also important, is that we are getting more and more users. We are active in fifty countries, and the app has been downloaded 350.000 times so far. Positive testimonials of users, for example in app stores, will help us to convince dermatologists.”
In the Netherlands, there’s another factor that complicates the introduction of SkinVision’s app and all of its functionalities: our healthcare system. Uyttewaal: “The Netherlands is one of few countries in the world in which a paid online consult between patient and dermatologist is not possible. Patients first needs to go to a general practitioner, who can refer them to a dermatologist. I think it is strange that people who feel responsible for their skin and would like to talk to a dermatologist, are not able to do this. Although I do think that the Dutch system will change in the near future.”