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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 Firstcheck got its second generation phone-attachable lens device known as the dyplens® clinically validated in October by tele-dermatology expert and dermatologist Dr Amanda Oakley.

While Firstcheck has been in the market offering app-based skin checks since 2016, the new dyplens – which clips onto any smartphone camera – will mean clinical quality images are captured with micro detail including the subsurface of the skin. It is the kind of detail that expert skin cancer doctors are trained to interpret in detecting the presence of skin cancer. The Firstcheck system cuts the cost of getting a mole checked to less than $20.

Founder and CEO Hayden Laird describes Firstcheck as the 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 medical clinics.

“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 in nationally branded pharmacies, partnering with skin check groups, securing corporate skin check agreements, and being used in academic and clinical studies.

When he co-founded Firstcheck, 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 partly came from a skin cancer experience in Laird’s family.

“My grandfather got melanoma and we started looking at skin screening options for ourselves. We came across the tech enabling doctors to diagnose skin cancer through photographs. We thought if you can make this more accessible through smartphone technology, and if you can submit photos yourself, it will make a real difference.”

“I’m passionate about better, more equitable access to skin cancer screening and solutions suitable for whole-of-population health management.”

Encouragement came in 2017 when Firstcheck was a finalist in the NZ Innovation Awards for ‘Start-up 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 partnerships with health funds and corporates in Australia and New Zealand.

Glenn Baker

Professional writer/editor with 35-plus years experience - including radio copywriting, various television writing/production roles, and writing for business magazines. I have also co-owned a wholesale food distribution business.

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