Ray Bradford has all decided to change the way a patient intermingles with his doctor. And it is now starting with an iPhone app that lets you get prescription drugs for your acne. With Spruce, out today, Bradford’s taking a fresh approach to the strange emerging phenomenon known as telemedicine. The app doesn’t try to pipe appointments over video calls. It doesn’t attempt to put a doctor in your pocket. Instead of doing a bunch of things awkwardly, it aims to treat just one condition–acne and that too very well. Bradford acknowledges that people might be wary of healthcare that lives on their home screen. “Naturally, there’s a lot of anxiety here. Is it safe? Is it high-quality?” he says. “Because it’s a new model, it can’t feel junky. It might feel more attentive.” Thus, the idea with Spruce wasn’t to give people an experience as good as a visit to the dermatologist. It was to give them something even better.
How does that work? An Asynchronous Appointment: Bradford left his role as a partner at Kleiner Perkins to start Spruce last year. He describes this app as a new way to visit the doctor, though that requires a fairly elastic idea of what constitutes a “visit” with a doctor in the first place. At no point in using the app do you communicate with a dermatologist in real time. Instead, everything happens asynchronously. All you have to do is to create an account, take a few pictures of your face with your selfie camera, answer some questions about your skin, and jot down whatever personal questions you might have and simply send it to your doctor. Pretty easy, isn’t it? And it doesn’t take much time but is very quick. Just a few minutes and you are done. The app is innovative, bright, comes with a cheerful design and much more.
It will just take 24 hours for a certified dermatologist in your state to send you a personalized treatment plan, with the appropriate prescriptions filled digitally to your pharmacy of choice. And, it will just cost $40.
Bradford says this asynchronous design makes life easier for all parties involved. As a patient, you can start to take care of your skin problem in a few minutes, instead of scheduling an appointment and waiting a few weeks. Currently, Bradford says, only twenty percent or so of people who have acne bother seeing a dermatologist at all. An app like Spruce vastly reduces the activation energy required to get treatment.
The design process lasted a year in all and focused on the doctor’s experience as much as patient’s. In talking to doctors, Spruce heard again and again that existing electronic medical record software was too cumbersome. To fight this, Fulton and company consciously tried to minimize the rote input required from doctors, leaving them free to spend their time on the more personalized aspects of the treatment. “We feel like that goes a long ways toward making things personal,” Fulton says.