The problem

The scale of the problem is huge and the statistics are frightening — two thirds of Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. In 2017, an estimated 13,900 people were diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form skin cancer. More than 1800 people died from skin cancer in Australia in the same year.

We are the undisputed skin cancer capital of the world, but we don’t have to be. Apart from staying out of the sun and slip, slop, slapping, skin cancer can be beaten with early detection. But sadly, there are many barriers.

Every year GPs see over 1 million people for skin cancer consultations, but it’s not always easy for Australians to get an appointment with a doctor. With a busy schedule, families may find it hard to organise time to visit the doctor. Farmers, mine-workers and anyone else living in rural areas may have to travel for hours to see their ‘local’ GP — and the costs of visiting the GP accumulate with travel, gap payments, consultation, and screening fees.

Amazingly, thanks to hefty government investment, skin cancer awareness is high, but few of us take action to detect the deadly cancer — this is where Helfie can help.

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Impressions within the
first 3 months: 19,876

First-time app
purchases: 2,311

 icon showing 39% increase


 icon showing 39% increase

The solution

The Helfie app promises to re-shape digital healthcare. Users can take a photo with the app of any mark, mole or spot on their skin and get it checked by an Australian GP in an instant. No more waiting rooms, long drives or organising the family schedule — just take a few photos while Netflix streams on the telly.

Helfie reduces barriers to healthcare by empowering users to take action before skin cancer does, and it was our job to build it in consultation with GPs.

We built the app to have three crucial screens, inspired by other intuitive user-friendly designs such as Uber and Snapchat. We considered the bare minimum steps users needed to get a diagnosis. What we ended up with is so simple even the most ‘technologically challenged’ can use it: Users take a ‘helfie’, they edit it, and hit send. One of Helfie’s vetted GP’s then provides a diagnosis via a custom built web portal on their desktop, laptop or smartphone. That’s it!

To remove as many barriers to entry as possible, we made the first diagnosis free. From there, a pack of 15 ‘appointments’ costs less than one visit to a GP for a screening.

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The App

Since launching, the app has been downloaded thousands of times and hundreds of appointments have been completed.

Month on month impressions and downloads have been almost tripling, while the numbers of registered users and completed appointments have been doubling.

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“This is a big win for a start-up and the best thing is this is just the beginning.”

— Rainer Grote, CEO Helfie

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Tech talk

The Helfie app is a powerful tool in the fight against skin cancer, but it will only work if the user trusts the app. So, we implemented some nifty tech to make this happen.

It was very important users could trust the GP providing them with a diagnosis (beyond knowing they had been vetted). This is why we went all out on building a completely custom messaging service in the app. It is similar to an email system, but we created custom styling to handle the diagnosis and photo attachments. Push notifications give the appearance of live messaging, which gives the patient a feeling of connection with the GP. This builds a layer of trust in the doctors and helps the user feel comfortable operating in the relatively new digital healthcare system.

We also took the privacy and security of users and doctors very seriously. We developed the app and web portal, choosing the best products for security and privacy. For instance, we chose Amazon Web Services to host the platform because of their superior cloud security standards. And for maximum usability coupled with security, we used OAuth 2.0 as an access delegation tool. We also created role-based access controls so we could limit what different types of users can see. And we used sophisticated database encryption to protect user and doctor information from being accessed by insiders or outsiders.

The result of all of this is a life-saving app patients and doctors can put their trust in.

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