Apostrophe has been in the telemedicine business since 2012 performing online dermatology consultations. With $6 million in seed funding raised at the end of last year, Apostrophe was perfectly positioned to capture the opportunity the pandemic shutdown presented, experiencing a 145% surge in sales during Q2.
Telehealth has helped expand access to care at a time when the pandemic severely restricted the ability to see doctors, forcing consumer adoption, and presenting an opportunity to fundamentally change healthcare as we know it. According to McKinsey & Company, this massive acceleration in the use of telehealth caused consumer adoption to skyrocket, from 11 percent of US consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46 percent of consumers now using telehealth to replace canceled healthcare visits. Those providers that rapidly scaled offerings are reaping the benefits, seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before.
Ben Holber, CEO of Apostrophe, said, “We’ve been waiting for this moment for almost a decade, learning and iterating the patient experience.”
Dermatology is the perfect health category to be reshaped by telehealth. Holber continued, “Because many dermatological concerns can be visually diagnosed, there’s real value in a remote consultation without using any other diagnostic devices other than the camera on your smartphone. “
“Our dermatologists can examine a few selfies and differentiate inflammatory acne, from comedonal acne, to rosacea depending on how it presents on someone. Some patients come to Apostrophe thinking they have acne, but they really have facial seborrheic dermatitis. Of course, each of these diagnoses changes the treatment a patient gets and consequently the result the patients will see. This is why so much of general dermatology will shift towards telehealth—because in the case of skin it makes so much sense.
“Dermatology is also special because so much discretionary income goes into it (as opposed to most other medical specialties). Taking dollars currently being spent at Sephora, aestheticians, CPG skincare brands, and putting them into medical care and tailored prescription treatments.”
The shift to telehealth is not inevitable, but the behavioral change among patients has begun. Adoption will result in a massive increase in people using telehealth as their first option for non-emergency care. It’s now up to providers to adopt new ways of working, improve the exchange of information, and broaden access and the integration of technology.
Holber believes, “The COVID pandemic caused an ‘aha moment’ for consumers because we were forced to use telehealth solutions going from ‘That sounds scary/interesting/different’ to ‘I want to use this whenever I can.’ There’s a barrier to getting people to try it once—but there’s rarely a barrier to get a patient to try it again. It goes from ‘I’m not sure I want to try that tele-thing’ to ‘Why would I go in-person … can I just do this online?'”
Since the shutdowns started, skincare in general (non-telehealth) has experienced an uptick. The Apostrophe team surfaced three trends from patients and other leaders in the space.
1. Skincare provides a sense of control when the world around us is uncertain. By investing in our care and our routines we can take charge of something personal and impactful, despite not knowing what next month has in store for us.
2. Skincare provides a brief escape. For some, it’s self-pampering when we need it most. A small investment in yourself to feel better.
3. Reprioritization of complexions. For most of us, our interactions are defined by video conferencing when it used to be mostly IRL. The thing about a Zoom is that it’s like staring into a mirror all day with the box showing your face.
The brand is wasting no time capturing this momentum. They’ve revamped the website with new clinical skincare education tools and launched a hydroquinone formula to treats several disorders of hyperpigmentation that the brand claims works 3X faster than OTC products.
While business is surging, Apostrophe was one of the early brands to jump in and help the World Health Organization with the hand sanitizer shortage, making time and allocating resources during the early months of COVID-19 to help keep up with demand. To support the WHO, Apostrophe prioritized the formulation of 60% alcohol hand sanitizer in its CA-based pharmacy/lab and donated 100% of profits to the WHO COVID-19 Response Fund. This fund provides medical equipment specifically to health workers, educates communities on the latest science-based information, and fast-tracks the development of vaccines and treatments.
Photo: via Apostrophe