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Revolutionising telemedicine, one consult at a time

Posted on October 26, 2021

Since its introduction in Canada in 2018, the teledermatology platform has seen a huge success. This technological tool created by a Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) alumnae is innovative and is changing the practice of medicine in order to provide improved access to specialized care to Canadians across the country.

Originally from the small northern Ontario community of Kapuskasing, Dr. Émilie Bourgeault was admitted to NOSM in 2007 and subsequently, completed her specialized training in dermatology at Université Laval in Quebec City.

Over time, having developed a significant interest and expertise in pediatric and general dermatology, and while visiting family in her hometown, Dr. Bourgeault is able to offer such specialized and often unavailable dermatological care to Northern Ontario residents.

This lack of accessible care in remote areas was troubling to Émilie, so she discussed the situation with her dermatologist colleague, Dr. Marc-André Doré. Together, they decided to find a solution to offer better dermatological health care to Canadians. In 2016, the idea of establishing DermaGo, a virtual dermatology clinic, was born.

“We wanted to offer dermatological consultations to people for minor yet common skin issues, such as acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, etc. Albeit minor, these conditions all require a diagnosis and treatment, which are easily provided through virtual consultations” says Dr. Bourgeault.

Launched in 2018, DermaGo became the first private teledermatological service established in Canada. To date, Dr. Bourgeault and her team have provided more than 10,000 consultations via the new asynchronous telemedicine platform. Almost half of the patient population come from outside large urban centres

Contrary to conventional telemedicine, asynchronous telemedicine does not require the scheduling of appointments between the physician and the patient. Rather, interactions are continuous, flexible and happen via messaging platforms according to both party’s availability, allowing for easy time management for all.

Increasing demand

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the demand for these telemedicine services to explode.

“Clinics were closing and physicians were seeing fewer patients. Nevertheless, patients’ dermatological conditions were not on lockdown though,” recalls Dr. Bourgeault, stating that demand for services increased by 700% in one year.

Seeing the success of the DermaGo model, physicians from other specialties contacted her team to learn more about the platform and how it works. This is what prompted Dr. Bourgeault and her colleagues to establish the ORO Santé technology company with a goal to make access to specialized health care more uniform for Canadians in all regions of the country.

According to Dr. Bourgeault, “the goal of ORO Santé is to provide all the necessary supports and technology to help medical clinics and varied health professionals easily set up a virtual clinic in accordance with the highest security standards which will enable them to better serve their patients.”

*Please note, this story has been translated to English from the original French version.