Digital skin check platform Firstcheck has finished 2020 on a high, signing a deal to become the exclusive skin check partner with a major Australian insurance provider.
The app provides digital telehealth skin checks by taking photos of a mole or spot. Next, the “skin selfies” are expertly assessed by registered local skin cancer doctors within 24-48 hours.
The success comes after getting its second generation phone-attachable lens device known as the dyplens® was clinically validated in October by teledermatology expert Associate Professor Amanda Oakley.
While Firstcheck has been in the market since 2016, the dyplens clips onto any smartphone camera and will mean the highest possible clinical quality images are captured with micro detail – including the subsurface of the skin – so a written report can be processed as quickly as possible. This revolutionises skin check telehealth because high specification devices used by dermatologists cost hundreds of dollars and rely on in-built lighting systems. Firstcheck’s dyplens alternative uses natural lighting for a low-cost solution of under $30.
Founder and CEO Hayden Laird describes Firstcheck as the most affordable way of getting skin checked by a doctor from the convenience of home – which was particularly important in a year in which it was hard for people to access their doctor.
“Everyone should be regularly self-checking their skin at least every three months for warning signs of skin cancer and getting any spots of concern checked promptly by a doctor,” Laird says.
“The technology we are using is proven and low-cost and has the potential to make a real difference to our country’s unenviable skin cancer statistics.”
The Australian deal will mean a surge in users as the Australian insurer pays for its customers and staff to access the app.
Over the past five years, Firstcheck has gone from strength to strength, achieving contracts to offer skin checks offered in nationally branded pharmacies, getting its app on Google Play and App Store, partnering with skin check groups, securing corporate skin check agreements, and being used in academic and clinical studies.
When he co-founded Firstcheck with Frank Lachmann, Laird brought a background in law and entrepreneurship, having completed an exchange to Canada’s Ivey Business School. Laird then became involved with running startup weekends in Taranaki and also attended the game-changing Health Vertical startup weekend in Wellington in November of 2015. “That was part of the journey,” Laird recalls. “We were looking at ideas to disrupt, digitalise and improve healthcare outcomes.”
Inspiration also came from a skin cancer experience in Laird’s family.
“My grandfather got melanoma. We were looking at skin screening options. We came across the tech enabling doctors to diagnose skin cancer through photographs. We thought if you can make this accessible through smartphone technology, and if you can submit photos yourself, it makes a real difference.”
“I’m passionate about better, more equitable access to skin cancer screening.”
When it launched, other apps weren’t taking photos and sending them off on the patient’s behalf in an accessible or widely affordable way. Firstcheck released its minimum viable product version in 2016. Next came learning about enterprise sales, which Laird describes as a significant learning curve.
There were plenty of uphill battles as Firstcheck fought to balance clinical requirements with end user customer expectations, secure the ideal advisory board, contract the right tech development team, and switch from a native mobile app to web application.
Encouragement came in 2017 when Firstcheck was a finalist in the NZ Innovation Awards for ‘Startup innovation of the Year,’ and 2018 when Firstcheck was included in the Ministry of Health 2018 MedTech Innovation Showcase.
After this year’s breakthrough deal with the Australian insurer, Firstcheck will aim to secure more large customers in Australia.