Image-based telemedicine services have been highly sought after in recent years. Of the various clinical specialisms, dermatology lends itself well to remote diagnosis due to the ability for high quality images to be captured at relatively low cost, stored and then transmitted to remote clinicians for reporting.
With around 400,000 patients on NHS waiting lists for dermatology treatment and a severe shortage of consultant dermatologists, demand for solutions which can streamline care pathways is extremely high. As a result, teledermatology platforms are now being used regularly within NHS Trusts, as well as by insourced and outsourced clinical service providers operating on behalf of the NHS. Triaging patients in this way means that over 30% of dermatology referrals to secondary care can be sent back to GPs without the need for patients to attend hospital.
Whilst most teledermatology platforms still require human input from a consultant, there is also growing use of AI in order to triage patients. Skin Analytics is a good example of AI already being used within the NHS, with a particular focus on the diagnosis of skin cancer. The business, which is backed by a range of VCs including Hoxton Ventures, launched the world’s first AI skin cancer pathway in 2020 in conjunction with the NHS.
Pressure on the NHS and the ease of image capture have also led to significant growth in pay-as-you-go and subscription-based models for private dermatology services. SkinDoc and My Skin Doctor are examples of these platforms, where patients can upload photos of their skin and receive a diagnosis and proposed treatment within 48 hours.
As a result of all of this, it’s no surprise that a number of early stage teledermatology platforms have attracted investment from healthtech focused venture capital funds in recent years. There has also been M&A activity, however, with Consultant Connect’s sale to Teladoc and Vantage Health (and their Rego platform) being acquired by NEC Software Solutions.
As the market continues to mature and expand, we expect to see further investment and M&A activity going forward. Healthcare software corporates, as well as providers of physical clinical services, will all be potential acquirers of quality teledermatology platforms.