An App to Detect Skin Diseases: AI is Helping Get Better Diagnosis

Health News
3 min read

You notice a mole where there wasn't one before, or a mysterious rash that sets your alarm bells off. What do you do?

Call up your dermatologist and start describing the anomaly incolourful details?

Or perhaps you start furiously typing, trying out different combination of adjectives that could it pin down.

Is it eczema, skin cancer or just dryness?

What if you were told that a professional diagnosis could be as easy as googling pictures of your symptoms?

And what if, unlike Dr Google who sends you down a rabbit hole of alarming self diagnosis, you could get an even higher rate of accuracy in diagnosis than by a physician?

Enter DermaAId, an AI imagery based mobile application, created by Nurithm labs in collaboration with Dr Somesh Gupta, a researcher at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMs), New Delhi.


FIT speaks to Dr Somesh Gupta, Professor, Department of Dermatology and Venereology, AIIMS, New Delhi, about how the app works, and how it can potentially revolutionise dermatology in India.

Filling a Void

While AI in healthcare is an up and coming field, Dr Gupta talks about how most of the projects are concentrated in first world countries and cater to their needs.

"While most western researchers focus on skin cancer, which is a common condition there, we decided to focus on the common dermatological conditions (in India) that are often misdiagnosed."
Dr Somesh Gupta, Professor, Department of Dermatology and Venereology, AIIMS, New Delhi

According to Dr Gupta, this happens because most people go to general physicians and non-dermatologists when it comes to common skin conditions. "Around 40 percent of the patients coming to general physicians are related to dermatology."

“There is a severe shortage of trained dermatologists in India, with less than 1 dermatologist per 100,000 people and most of them are concentrated in urban areas.”
Dr Somesh Gupta

He goes on to add, "we also did a survey and found that only 40 percent of common skin diseases are rightly diagnosed and treated by general physicians."

How the App Works

The app is based on pattern recognition and machine learning technology.

Simply put, you upload a picture of the skin's surface, and the AI compares it with a database of properly diagnosed and classified images of 50 skin conditions and is able to give you an accurate diagnosis in under 2 minutes.

“In the case of skin, all the symptoms appear on the surface. So if you click a picture and you let the machine read the picture, it is possible to give a diagnosis.”
Dr Somesh Gupta

DermaAId can diagnose ezcema, psoriasis, vitiligo, Melasma, other common and not so common skin conditions and diseases with an 80 percent accuracy rate.

A Unique App

“Internationally there are many (dermitology diagnosis) apps but none of them have been tested and tried in a clinical setting before their launch. And this has been our most important acheivement.”
Dr Somesh Gupta

Most of the apps which are tested are tried only in the machine learning model, not in an actual clinical setting.

Dr Gupta goes on to explain how this app was tested in 3 settings: rural, urban (private practice) and urban (tertiary care).

"We found an accuracy of around 80 percent in all these settings. This means that 8 out of 10 people are correctly diagnosed for 50 diseases in this app."

"This high level of accuracy, almost twice that of the diagnostic accuracy of general physicians, is another aspect that makes this app unique," he added.

“This is especially significant when compared to the performance of primary care physicians who have an accuracy of around 40 percent.”
Dr Somesh Gupta

Moreover, Dr Gupta adds, "our app not only outperformed non dermatologists, but also dermatologists in the diagnosis of skin cancer."

Simplifying Diagnosis

"Medicine has always been slow to adopt new technology. Most of the times it is because of ignorance."

But he hopes that DermaAId will do this, considering how simple it is to use, taking less than a couple of minutes, with no lag.

He also talks about how AI can revolutionise the future of medicine in the country.

“This can only be done “AI integrated in healthcare in not just advanced hospitals, but should be implemented in primary healthcare. But for this the support of the government is required, to bridge this gap in healthcare in the country.”
Dr Somesh Gupta

DermaAId is available for download to all qualified doctors and physicians for free.

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