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05.05
2022

How online consultations are giving patients peace of mind

After identifying a gap in the market, Patrick and his colleagues created a pioneering app in the digital health space. We ask Patrick about his journey from skin surgeon to co-founder and what he has learnt along the way. 

Tell me about the journey that led you to found Dermapp.

I’d been working as a dermatologist – treating skin cancer – in a private practice at Biopôle since 2014. I was looking for a new challenge. So, in 2017, when I was approached by two friends who wanted to build a dermatology platform, I leapt at the chance. Because there aren’t enough dermatologists in the country, a patient often waits months before seeing a doctor. There were around 1,000 daily Google searches for terms related to our field in Lausanne, such as ‘dermatologist’ and ‘derm clinic’. So we knew there was unmet demand for skin doctors in this region.

How does Dermapp help meet this demand?

Our app is an online consultation tool that gives advice to patients within 48 hours. So, for instance, if someone is worried about a mole on their skin or any other skin condition, they can send a picture and get advice from a qualified dermatologist without having to wait for months for an appointment. 

How do you take the leap and start a company when you have no business background?

It was a learning curve, as doctors don’t tend to be good at business – it isn’t covered at medical school! I started to gain knowledge of business when I opened a private practice, so I learnt by doing.

What really helped is that I was building the business with a team that I trusted. From the very start, it felt right to start this venture with my business partners. Every evening we discussed everything together and brought different skills to the table. It’s a lot easier to solve problems together than trying to do it alone. All five of us were dedicated and worked hard in our spare time to make it work.

Passion is the driving force behind any successful business.

What challenges did you face?

One of the biggest challenges was – and still is – convincing people of the value of what we’re doing. Getting dermatologists on board was tricky as some said they didn’t have time for online consultations. But the pandemic has helped people to understand that health is becoming digital. This is the future – every physician and dermatologist will have to be connected to online facilities and see patients virtually as well as in person.

Did the pandemic affect you in other ways?

The pandemic helped to show the value of our app. We had to close our practices, so the number of patients who used our app rose steeply. Now we work with ten dermatologists and we’re liaising with healthcare providers to broaden our offering by reaching patients in care homes. But we wanted to do something local, and that’s still very much our focus. We link patients to doctors who work in this particular region. Biopôle is the ideal place to grow our business as it’s one of the scientific powerhouses of the country and it’s in an excellent location.

Through this entrepreneurial journey you must have learnt a lot. Could you give me three tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?

  1. Think outside the box, but listen to other people. Even if you think they’re not as knowledgeable as you in a specific field, you may be surprised at what ideas they might bring. Be open and curious.
  2. When something goes wrong, change the way you’re doing things. Approach it from a different angle rather than trying again in the same way.
  3. Passion is the driving force behind any successful business. Be prepared to give a lot and work hard.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I sleep! And I spend a lot of time with my family. They are my source of inspiration and give me the strength to achieve my goals. I also love to read about different topics, like psychology, education or history. This helps me to step away from my doctor’s lens and see the world from different perspectives.

Which living person do you most admire?

I admire people who wake up in the morning and say to themselves, ‘I’m going to try and do my best today’. That’s what I try to do every day. If I had to pick one person, it would be Angela Merkel. She’s down to earth but at the same time has shown incredible courage and strength. I like her motto Wir schaffen das, or ‘We can do this’.

Who is your fictional hero?

It would have to be Calaf, the hero of Puccini’s opera Turandot. In the story, any man who wants to marry Turandot must answer three riddles – and will be beheaded if he fails. Calaf was courageous enough to answer the riddles and smart enough to answer them correctly. He’s brave, smart, takes care of his family and tells everyone ‘nessun dorma’ – which I interpret as ‘Don’t sleep (too much); work hard and you’ll achieve your goals’.

Patrick Perrier
Co-founder of Dermapp
Patrick Perrier is the co-founder of Dermapp, the first online dermatological consultation tool in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (www.dermapp.ch). After almost two decades of experience in the field of skin disease, he is convinced that telemedicine has incredible potential – in particular in dermatology.

Patrick is a board-certified dermatologist, a certified Mohs surgeon and a teacher for ESMS (European Society for Mohs Surgery). Prior to this, he worked as head of the Interventional Dermatology Unit at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) in Lausanne. In the early 2000s, after obtaining his medical degree from Lausanne University, he worked in fundamental research in immunology at the Mario Negri Institute in Milan and then obtained his MD–PhD. Since 2014, he and two associates have run the CEDDECC (Centre Dermatologique et Dermato-Chirurgical des Croisettes) on the Biopôle campus in Lausanne.

DermApp

DermApp est né d’une constatation simple. Il peut être difficile d’obtenir un rendez-vous chez un dermatologue et les délais d’attente peuvent être longs.

DermApp vous propose des consultations en ligne assurées par des dermatologues certifiés de votre région pour vous aider à résoudre votre problème de peau. Il vous suffit de répondre à quelques questions et de soumettre 3 photos de votre pathologie, vous recevrez une réponse personnalisée sous 48 heures.

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