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Munster dermatologist develops app for virtual visits

Dr. A. David Soleymani, a Munster dermatologist, developed the Dermio telemedicine app.

MUNSTER | Do you have a skin condition but don't have time to see a doctor?

Thanks to a Munster dermatologist, there's now an app for that.

Dr. A. David Soleymani recently developed the Dermio telemedicine app, which allows patients to correspond with a physician remotely about their skin ailments.

"It saves the patient a huge amount of time and money and hassle," he said. "We've moved the needle from you have to wait six months or drive three hours to see a dermatologist to where we could potentially get this solved within six hours."

Patients who use the HIPAA-compliant app can take a video or photo of their condition, type a description then send it to the doctor, who has 24 hours to respond. Users pay $40 per consultation, a rate that's in line with specialist copays. The interface is comparable to Facebook's messaging feature (Soleymani said a video chat option is in the works).

At a time when smartphones can do more and more, doctors and insurers are increasingly moving toward telemedicine as a way to make care more convenient and less costly. It also helps fill in the gaps in geographical areas that lack certain medical specialties.

Soleymani, a Valparaiso native who practiced at Northwestern in Chicago for the past decade, said that in his line of work, he encounters a lot of simple, easy-to-diagnose conditions. The app is a way to save people a trip to the office and from taking time off work when he can provide them with a treatment plan, and prescriptions if need be, remotely. However, he recommends that if someone believes they have skin cancer, they see a doctor in person.

Dermio is also a way to make sure doctors get paid where they wouldn't if a patient just called or emailed them.

"If you spend a half hour on the phone talking to someone, you don't get reimbursed for that," Soleymani said. "Yeah, you want to help the patient, but our time is valuable."

Soleymani, who recently opened a physical office at 9200 S. Calumet Ave. in Munster, said that even though he intends to continue seeing patients in the flesh because he enjoys that personal interaction, he can envision a day when many doctors practice only virtually. For that to happen, he said, regulations will have to change, such as allowing physicians to treat patients in states where they don't have a medical license.

In the meantime, he added, Dermio "addresses a need for the young, busy professional who simply doesn't have the time to come in and has a relatively simple problem that can be dealt with through the app."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.