The California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) is investing $500,000 in Direct Dermatology, a Palo Alto telemedicine company using low-cost technology to bring high-quality dermatology care to rural and underserved patients in the state.
“Skin problems account for approximately 25 percent of all visits to office-based Primary Care Physicians (PCP),” said Margaret Laws, Director of CHCF’s “Innovations for the Underserved” program that manages the CHCF Health Innovation Fund. “For many of these visits, the patient and physician would benefit from a consultation with a dermatologist, but the current shortage and the unequal geographic distribution of dermatologists often prevents or delays these consultations.”
The new funding brings CHCF’s total investment in Direct Dermatology to $740,000 made through the CHCF Health Innovation Fund. The fund supports business models that have the potential to lower the total cost of healthcare and significantly improve access to care for the people of California.
“Direct Dermatology uses digital cameras and secure internet access to enable medical dermatologists to review patient skin conditions remotely,” said Raj Gupta, MD, PhD, and Co-Founder of Direct Dermatology. “Within 48 hours of receiving a picture from a provider or patient, we are able to diagnose and recommend treatment options.”
To use the services, clinics only need a digital camera, computer, and internet connection. Patients can use the service by visiting their primary care provider or by uploading images to the Direct Dermatology platform. In both cases, patients are able to receive a diagnosis and a prescription if needed.
Since 2010, the company’s board-certified dermatologists have provided more than 4,000 virtual consultations to referring PCPs. Recently, the company opened its online service directly to consumers that make it possible for patients to have access to skin specialists without a doctor’s referral.