The University of Newcastle, Australia

Teledermatologist

Teledermatologist

Murray Corbett, Andrew Stace and Kesley Kernes are drastically reducing patient wait times and connecting remote communities to the services they need.

Along with its sunshine and beaches, Australia is famous for its distance, its remoteness and its high rates of skin cancer. In the past, the medical skincare profession of dermatology has been particularly difficult for some Australians to access.

Murray Corbett of Newcastle Dermatology is changing all of this. He bought the business five years ago and started learning about the logistics and challenges of servicing clients in rural and remote locations. People in those areas have to take days off work, book flights and stay at hotels, just to see a dermatologist.

“Four years ago, I thought about all those people in the bush that didn’t have access to a dermatologist. We regularly have people travelling three or four hours in their cars to get to a dermatology practice. I thought there’s got to be an easier way for people who live in the country,” he says of his newest venture, Teledermatologist.

With over thirty years of owning and managing multiple businesses, Murray understood the complexity of the idea and that he needed help to realise its potential. He brought in two directors, Andrew Stace for the technical capability and Kesley Kernes for business operations. The trio got to work.

Becoming a Dermatologist is a very big commitment for those few willing to undertake the journey subsequently, it is a relatively rare, but highly relied upon, specialisation. “We’ve created a digital service that optimises dermatologists' consultation time providing the opportunity for more patients right across Australia to receive treatment,” Murray says.

Teledermatologist is a specially designed high-resolution video meeting platform that enables the patient and the GP to sit side by side while speaking with the dermatologist on their screen. The dermatologist can be shown high-resolution photos and speak directly with the patient about everything from their symptoms to their diet. Very few patients require further travel. Medicare rebates and pensioner discounts alongside bulk billing are included options in the consultation fee.

“Typically the wait time to see a dermatologist is four to twelve months. With our service people can be seen within a week,” Murray says. “We’re now working with GPs across Australia including some of our most remote locations such as Norfolk Island.”

In response to COVID-19 restrictions, Teledermatologist has expanded its services to allow dermatologists to care for patients in aged care facilities. All patients are bulk billed for consultations while remaining safely isolated. “We want to ensure everyone has access to a dermatologist whilst self-isolating and we do this via secure video links” Andrew says.

The trio doesn't see their startup as a competitor to in-house dermatologists. If anything, they could potentially give dermatologists more business by providing a solution that allows part-time and at-home consultations.

“There will always be health professionals in bricks and mortar, that’s where face-to-face consults and surgery will take place,” Andrew says.

Now Murray, Andrew and Kesley have taken their startup to the next level by joining the Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) available through the Integrated Innovation Network (I2N). This gives them access to several different experienced founders who offer advice.  

As graduate at the University of Newcastle, Kesley was able to make an expression of interest for he and his co-founders to participate in VMS.  “I like the idea of having mentors who can challenge our thinking and our blind spots. Being involved in VMS gives us access to different perspectives and experiences,” Kesley says.

“We are assigned a team of experienced mentors who attend each meeting.  Once a month we sit down with them for an hour and a half with our agenda of items. They get to question our rationale, tell us what they think, and it helps to keep us in check,” Andrew says.

Teledermatologist have also shared their innovation journey with others in the ecosystem through I2N’s Join the Dots monthly networking event. At Join the Dots, Kesley was able to share the story of Teledermatologist and cite a recent example of the power of their business model.

“Baby Lachy was five months old with a rash going from his head to his toes. He was screaming and crying uncontrollably,” Kesley says. “His parents went to their GP, but he couldn’t diagnose it and referred them to a dermatologist. Living in a remote location, his parents would have had to take days off work, book flights to Melbourne or Sydney for a 20 to 30-minute consultation. But with Teledermatologist, we set the consultation up, they travelled to their local medical centre and had a virtual meeting with a capital city-based dermatologist. Lachy had a prescription for his rash within 24 hours.”

Murray, Andrew and Kesley want to tell more and more stories just like this, and they have even bigger plans moving forward. At this stage, Teledermatologist are just scratching the surface with other medical specialties in their sights.

Learn more about Teledermatologist's online dermatology service and their COVID-19 solutions for clinics and aged care service providers.