How Our First Derm App Can Save Your Life

by | Sep 15, 2020 | Blog, Skin Cancer, Teledermatology

Our Teledermatology service has been in action for many years now, we started research as far back as 2009 and we haven’t looked back! Now that more of us are using online services we thought it would be great to share the progress teledermatology has made over the past ten years.

Firstly we’d like to share some stories that demonstrate how our service could save you and your loved ones… If you would like to jump to a specific section just click one of the links below.


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Our CEO Saved His Best Friend

Malignant melanoma best friend Bagge Börve

Dr. Börve and his Skin Cancer Surviving Friend

First is a fantastic story of our CEO, Dr. Alexander Börve, who in the early days of First Derm, managed to save one of his friends with our app.

As Dr. Börve says, friends are the litmus test if your idea will fly or not. Here is Dr. Börve in his own words:

Despite everything, execution is paramount, this is where a lot of ideas fizzle out or you go bankrupt down the road.

As a founder, the most rewarding moment, is when you receive feedback from your friends. This is only made better when friends use your service and have paid without your knowledge. For me, this is a key signal in that they support you and there is a proven business model.

I got the idea to start First Derm many years ago, after I observed friends asking my then dermatologist girlfriend for advice on their skin concerns at dinner parties and social events.


Awkward Encounters


Sometimes it could be awkward when there was a genuine concern…. Encounters like these developed into the creation of an anonymous, on-demand dermatology service. It was important that it could be used from anywhere, anytime and in any internet connected device. There are over 3000 skin diseases reported in research, however there is one main skin disease that kills if it is not discovered early. The skin cancer malignant melanoma has a more than 95% survival rate if caught early. However, if it is caught late there is a quite fast and painful death, which sometimes can be within months.

After all of this hard work, I felt it would only be a matter of time before a friend would show me scar on their chest after having used First Derm…

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A Friend Asks For Help


In the end it came from a good friend of mine. Swedish entrepreneur friend Christian Bagge runs a video editing platform called Cloudreel, when he was visiting the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona he told me:

Alex, I used your dermatology service last year and I think it might have saved my life!

He pulled up his shirt to reveal a 5 cm scar on his chest.

Malignant melanoma in situ chest scar tissue 42 year old male Sweden

Chest Scar Tissue after Malignant Melanoma Treatment

A changing mole on his chest was concerning and that his wife encouraged him to get it checked out. Bagge is a technology enthusiast, conscious about his personal time and he remembered my dermatology service would give an answer within hours. After downloading the app and snapping two pictures: one overview and one close-up. The First Derm dermatologist responded promptly the same day.


Checking for Skin Cancer


Malignant melanoma skin cancer could not be ruled out and he was advised to see a dermatologist in person as soon as possible. At the clinic, they would then take a look with a dermatoscope (a magnifying glass with an LED light that dermatologists use to look at moles).


Potential Malignant Melanoma Assessment

Initially it was a little shocking to Bagge, but he followed the advice and booked an appointment at a dermatology clinic in his vicinity. The dermatologist confirmed that the mole looked suspiciously like a malignant melanoma and removed it with a 1 cm margin and sent it for a pathology lab. A pathology report showed that it was a malignant melanoma in situ, which is early stage malignant melanoma; when it is removed early, you are close to 100% cured from the disease.

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Our Tele-dermatology Research


Before we dive into another positive story on our service. We’d like to show you some of the research we have put into teledermatology. This has helped us succeed at the level you can see today.

First Derm’s founder, Dr. Alexander Börve, authored a teledermatology study that could change the way skin cancer patients are triaged worldwide. With 1,562 participants, this was the largest study of its kind to date.

In the study, participants were seen in primary care clinics for diagnosis of suspicious skin lesions. If referral to a dermatologist was warranted, primary care practitioners sent referral notification to local dermatology clinics in two ways:

  1. For the control group (746 patients), physicians used paper referral forms and sent them through the regular channels.
  2. In the study group (816 patients), physicians used a dermoscope connected to their iPhones to photograph lesions. They then completed a standardized query form, and sent both to the dermatology departments electronically.
The study’s most important findings include:
  • For those requiring surgical treatment, the waiting time was significantly shorter using teledermoscopy for patients with skin cancer
  • Triage decisions were more reliable with teledermoscopy.
  • Over 40% of the teledermoscopy patients could potentially have avoided face-to-face visits.
  • Teledermatology reduces the median time for diagnosis and treatment for all skin cancer types 
  • More patients referred via teledermoscopy were able to receive surgical treatment (when required) on their first face-to-face visit with a dermatologist.

What this research demonstrates is that our online dermatology app was able to shorten waiting times. It also aided dermatologists in making accurate and effective decisions for patients.

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How Our Study Saved A Mothers Life


Our First Derm app hasn’t simply saved CEOs in isolated cases. Our study even saved one of the patients directly.

Smartphone found skin cancer

Mother using her smartphone found potential skin cancer.

Her malignant melanoma was found at an early stage thanks to a clinical digital health study using a smartphone app conducted in the region of western Götaland, Sweden. A week later, the lesion was surgically removed, and today Susann is completely healthy.

“It is very likely that the mobile phone saved my life,” Susann Samuelsson says, a 38-year-old mother of two from the west coast town of Kungsbacka. Thanks to the clinical study with our First Derm app, which found her malignant melanoma at an early stage, the lesion was surgically removed before it could spread. “I was extremely lucky” she says. For Susann, it all began with an irritated mole on her back, which had started to itch. Since Susann had recently read a newspaper article about skin cancer, she went to the primary healthcare centre in Kungsbacka to have it examined.



Discovered a lesion on the back of her thigh


“At the primary healthcare centre, I met a really good doctor. He concluded that the lesion on my back was harmless, but because he saw that I had many moles, he checked my whole skin.”

The doctor noticed a mole on the back of her thigh, which Susann had not noticed before. It looked suspicious and asked Susann if she wanted to participate in an going research study using a smartphone app called First Derm with an attached dermascope – which is a magnifying glass with a light that amplifies a mole lesion and is used by dermatologist to diagnose skin cancer.

“I thought it sounded like a good idea that the family doctor would take two pictures of my mole and send them directly from a smartphone to a dermatologist at the dermatologist department of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. The study was very modern, since a patient would receive a response within 24 hours from a dermatologist using a smartphone.”

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Potential Melanoma

On the very next day, Susann received a call from her family doctor. Her birthmark was very likely to be a malignant melanoma and needed to be surgically removed. A week later she had a surgery appointment at the department of dermatology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. The suspicious skin lesion was surgically removed in local anesthesia and then sent to the laboratory for analysis. After the surgery, a few days of anxious waiting followed.

“I was told that it was indeed a malignant melanoma, but at an early stage and had not spread. My tears rolled down my chin of joy and relief, I knew it could have been so much worse. ”Today Susann feels great. She will go for a yearly mole screening for the rest of her life. And she has now changed her sunbathing habits. “I have always loved the beach and sunbathe , but now I will change my habit and it will be the end of it. I want to see my kids grow up.”


Saving the Life of an Entrepreneur


Finally, before we dig into how our service works we’d like to share another story.

linkedin message connection Ricardo malignant melanoma

Linkedin Message From Richard

Ricardo Ibarra, the founder and CEO of Auctio, met our CEO Dr. Alexander Börve at a 500 Startup meeting. It was a typical San Francisco Friday evening for the startup founders, until Ricardo heard about First Derm’s tele-dermatology service and decided to send in a case. The next morning, he woke up to an answer from a board-certified dermatologist.

Ricardo Ibarra Malignant Melanoma smartphone dermoscopy arm ICD 10 C43.9

Ricardo Ibarra Malignant Melanoma Smartphone Image


Ricardo’s advice for people who worry about moles and spots?

“I know there are many [people] like me who don’t have time to take care of themselves. However, I want to tell my story to bring awareness to skin cancer,” said Ricardo. “First Derm is a very simple product, that can be used by anyone, anywhere, and has the potential to save your life.”

Prior to learning about First Derm, Ricardo suspected there might be something wrong with a changing mole on his left arm. But he didn’t have the time to go to a doctor or a dermatologist. So when Alexander said, “We can check your mole on your smartphone!”, Ricardo was relieved to hear that he could get care from a dermatologist right at his fingertips.


Try our FREE dermatology search engine and get peace of mind within a second.


Short on Time


Running a startup meant long hours and flying back and forth between New York and San Francisco didn’t leave much room for a doctor’s appointment.

One of his best friends from Colombia had a metastasized malignant melanoma. And the thought of having something like that drove Ricardo into denial. In February, Ricardo went into a dermatologist’s office as recommended, and the biopsy confirmed the answer from First Derm. Within a week, the dermatologist removed the malignant melanoma with 5mm margins. Ricardo now has a scar, but is fully recovered and is more aware of his health.


Ricardo’s Post Surgery Scar

Remember: Skin cancer is one of fastest forms of cancer in the USA. But unlike other cancers, 95% of cases are curable if detected and treated early. Studies show that the accuracy on diagnosis of a skin condition is higher if it comes from a dermatologist via images. This is especially true when compared to visiting a medical center and meeting a general practitioner. Seeing how First Derm’s technology saved Ricardo’s life, Dr Börve said, “Tele-dermatology is a great and simple way to ‘scale’ saving lives.

Try our FREE dermatology search engine and get peace of mind within a second.


Why Choose First Derm?


We hope that the stories in this article have demonstrated the importance of using teledermatology. It is a fairly new phenomena but has proven to be integral. So which app to use? Lets take a look…

Online dermatology user app

Online dermatology user app


All Apps Are Not Created Equal


There are tens of thousands of medical apps available on the market right now. Developers are busy innovating health care as we’ve come to know it, trying to solve health issues in real time, where patients are. The result – at least in the field of online dermatology – is hundreds of apps that may appear similar on the consumer-side, but that work in different ways.

There are at least three different kinds of online dermatology user apps on the market:
  1. Self-help apps in which you search through rash pictures for one that looks like yours
  2. Automated algorithmic apps in which users photograph their skin issues with smartphones, and receive computer-generated diagnoses (rather than from board-certified dermatologists)
  3. An app that sends user-generated photographs of skin issues directly to board-certified dermatologists who reply with a diagnosis or recommendations for next steps.

Scientific studies indicate that the third option, which uses smartphones to take and send images to certified dermatologists, provides the most accurate triaging of patients.

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First Derm Won’t Replace Your Physician – And Doesn’t Want To


First Derm values doctors and believes that no current technology should replace in-person exams. Instead, First Derm helps to effectively triage skin issues by sending images to dermatologists. First Derm dermatologists review cases and recommend next steps that users can take to relieve their symptoms. In about 70% of cases submitted to First Derm, users receive information about self-treatment with over-the-counter medications, and the recommendation that they see a doctor if the issue does not improve in a week or worsens.

In the other 30% of cases, patients were instructed to see their physician for further testing, diagnosis, and treatment, as it is not always easy to see from a photograph if the skin issue is particularly concerning.

Approximately 15% of those cases referred to physicians result in prescription medications. The remaining cases tend to be possible cancers, which need to be ruled out in person.

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How Much Is Peace of Mind Worth?


As mentioned with many of the lives saved, you can’t put a price on detecting skin cancer early. So… Why should you choose First Derm as your online dermatology app with so many competitors out there?

  1. We send your skin images to a board-certified dermatologist.
  2. Our App isn’t just about skin cancers; in fact, the majority of cases First Derm receives are about rashes and other skin-related issues.
  3. Online Dermatologists are better than non-expert physicians at identifying skin issues, according to a study in the Archives of Dermatology.
  4. Anonymity is key. We do not withhold your information. In a world in which companies are selling data to the highest bidder, anonymity is valuable and that is what we provide.
  5. First Derm audits almost all cases on a monthly basis to ensure high standards.
  6. Results in less than 24 hours while our competitors that use dermatologists can take up to 3 days
  7. The average sensitivity and specificity rates are high. Our dermatologists refer anything that looks suspicious, but will also save unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office.
  8. Proven efficacy in terms of triaging patients. This liberates in-person dermatologists up to see the patients with potentially severe conditions faster.
  9. First Derm gives back to the community. We work tirelessly to promote healthy skin habits, to teach parents how to care for and prevent their children’s rashes, and raise skin cancer awareness at events across the USA and beyond.
  10. We are significantly less expensive than our closest competitors. Each case costs $29.99 – about the cost of a copay for a non-specialist.
  11. Additionally, First Derm can save you valuable time and money. You don’t have to endure the hassle of making an appointment with your internist, waiting several weeks to be seen, taking time away from work, driving to the appointment, and waiting for the doctor to see you – only then to be referred to a specialist.


Try Our Services Today

We hope that some of the stories above have inspired you to get your moles checked. Remember you can try our service anonymously here.

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