A new vision for the future of telemedicine: Q&A with Elliot Swart

In his TEDMED talk, Elliot Swart directed our focus to telemedicine and its potential to not only replace but improve upon current diagnostic procedures.  We reached out to learn more about how he is shaping the future of telemedicine.

Elliot Swart takes the TEDMED stage. [Kevosk Djansezian]
Elliot Swart takes the TEDMED stage. [Kevosk Djansezian]

What advice would you give to other aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs?

One piece of advice I took to heart is set out to solve a problem that you truly understand. And even once you have a problem, don’t quit your day job until you have a real idea of how to solve it and why your solution is different. The most unhappy entrepreneurs I know are the ones who decided to be entrepreneurs before they had a problem to solve.

Now, I’m not suggesting you should wait around until lightning strikes. My favorite TED talk of all time is “How to start a movement” by Derek Silvers.  The gift I took away from that talk is that it takes a lot of people to truly accomplish something, and that being the second, third, or even tenth person to join is as important of a role as the person who starts it. There are hundreds of amazing startups and early stage companies solving meaningful problems. Go out and find one!

What has been your main source of inspiration that drives you to innovate?

My company, 3Derm, makes a teledermatology solution to help get melanoma patients seen sooner. In my work I’ve come across a number of people who will tell me about their friends or family who have died from skin cancer. I like cool technology as much as the next guy, but what really drives me is the number of lives we’ll save if we succeed.

Why does your talk matter now? What do you hope people learn from your talk?

Telemedicine is still seen as the second best alternative – standard practice only if the patient is extremely remote or has no other options. But, slowly, we’ve seen people start to turn the corner and realize that telemedicine can be used to lower costs and increase convenience in almost any population. By developing telemedicine systems for different specialties, we are essentially distilling the diagnostic process into the necessary information, making medicine more quantitative and easier to standardize.

My company has spent four years creating a telemedicine sense for dermatology. There are many other specialties that will require years of university research and commercialization. I hope my talk can convince people of telemedicine’s potential as a standard of care and the importance of pursuing this research.