Smart algorithms will soon start taking care of skin cancer, dermatologists will consult patients online, and 3D printers will print out synthetic skin. In dermatology, a lot is going on, and medical practitioners should plan for the technical changes in time before they begin swiping through the specialty.
Currently, between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000, melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year, as per the estimates from the WHO. Fortunately, emerging tools are on their way to helping dermatologists efficiently identify and manage skin diseases. Innovative methods have a major effect on healthcare in general, but even the transformation of the entire discipline can be anticipated in the case of such subfields, such as surgery.
Considering dermatology, it is certainly not going to undergo such a dramatic turn as surgery, but the change will still be definitive. Technology has influenced dermatology practices for years, and that will intensify in the years to come. Here are the top 6 technologies that are making an impact.
- Teledermatology (Telemedicine)
Telehealth solutions have naturally emerged in dermatology, as you can quickly diagnose whether you have a skin problem, and smartphones combined with high-speed Internet connectivity make it easy to transfer pictures or videos anywhere. Teledermatology service choices are soaring like the FirstDerm, Spruce, SkinMDnow, Zwivel, or iDoc24 Direct Dermatology etc.
They all work based on the same principle: they link patients to a dermatologist online for a consultation. People may typically load their images onto a certain website, and dermatologists offer advice based on that.
The platforms’ success indicates that there was an immediate need for that solution. The iDoc24 had already submitted more than 7,000 cases from around the world. It also turned out that most of the problems were very harmless: iDoc24 found that 70% of all their checked cases could be self-treated and recommended the patient to carry out more testing in all the remaining 30% of the cases.
Reference link to iDoc24:
- Big Data
Data analysis helps to improve the quality and coordination of treatment, to reduce the costs incurred, and to prevent overuse of resources. The immense potential of big data to bring lasting improvement to their profession was also acknowledged by dermatologists.
In 2016, a clinical register called DataDerm was launched by the American Academy of Dermatology. The database was developed by dermatologists and links data from thousands of dermatologists around the United States regarding millions of patients. It eases the pain of reporting and encourages medical professionals to illustrate to payers, policymakers, and the medical community the level of treatment they provide. At the same time, it gives every participant, down to the patient level, a private review of the data of his or her practice against national averages.
Reference link to DataDerm:
Lately, amazing high-tech robots have appeared on the medicine stage. The first commercial Vectra WB360 entire-body skin lesion mapping system was recently built by the New Jersey-based company, Canfield Scientific. It can perform a 360-degree scan of the entire body and recognize all skin lesions. But what’s even more exciting is the possibility of robots that will support dermatologists in the future, especially aesthetic dermatologists.
Reference link to WB360:
Laser therapies treat multiple forms of skin cancer and other skin issues, and a study found that robots may be able to help there. The accuracy and durability of laser irradiation treatments conducted by humans and robotic arms were compared by researchers and the ones done by the robots were found to be ultra-superior to the ones done by humans. In the future, we may expect ‘robotic surgeons’ to carry out laser therapies with humans guiding the operation.
- Artificial Intelligence:
Deep learning algorithms are particularly good at recognizing certain images, so medical specialties dealing with medical imaging, such as radiology or dermatology, will have a place in the future. IBM agreed, for example, to let dermatologists leverage the results of its deep learning platform, Watson, to detect melanoma and other forms of skin cancer in a reliable manner without the need for a lot of biopsies. At the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, experts found that their deep learning algorithm was able to achieve 76 percent accuracy based on dermatology images in the diagnosis of melanoma cases, while the average accuracy on that data set was 70.5 percent for the dermatologists.
Reference link to IBM’s Watson:
- 3D Printing:
3D printing is the solution to organ shortages of all kinds, including skin, as well as due to the rising protest against animal testing for new cosmetic, chemical, and pharmaceutical products. It has already been recognized by many innovators and research is going on for the same.
In collaboration with the bioengineering company BioDan Group, scientists at the Spanish Universidad Carlos III de Madrid have introduced a prototype for a 3D bioprinter that can create a fully functional human skin.
Reference link to BioDan
Also, James Yoo and his team at the US Wake Forest School of Medicine have created a similar prototype that can produce synthetic skin. In 2015, San Diego-based bioprinting company Organovo collaborated with cosmetics giant L’Oréal to create 3D-printed skin.
Skin injuries take a long time to repair. It takes 1-2 weeks for a 10 mm cut to turn into a scar and then to slowly fade away. Researchers are working on various technologies to shorten the healing process and to speed up the human’s natural responses to improved skin regeneration.
A skin cell spray was developed by Healthpoint Biotherapeutics to improve the traditional treatment for leg ulcers. According to a study, applied with compression bandages before wrapping the leg, the spray increased the degree of healing and did so in less time than healing with bandages alone. ACell’s MatriStem, an extracellular matrix that helps to regrow tissues, is another notable breakthrough that induced the regrowth of an amputated fingertip in 2010.
Newspaper link to Healhpoint Biotherapeutics:
Although the above list has its drawbacks, it highlights the immense potential of emerging technology to transform the dermatology landscape very soon. Thus, a student who wants to become a dermatologist can better be acquainted with disruptive technologies to get the best out of them when they begin to practice.