Hillel's Tech Corner: DermaDetect uses phones to detect skin conditions

One of the most fascinating uses of the mobile camera is in the medical field. The potential here is endless, as we all walk around with smartphones in our pockets.

DermaDetect.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There have been several events in my life pertaining to technology that amazed me. When I got my first iPod, I couldn’t figure out how to “take out the CD” and change my music.
“What do you mean I don’t have to because all my music is already here?”
Then, when I got my first smartphone, it amazed me that all of a sudden I was constantly connected, no matter where I was. And finally, when I got my first digital camera, I couldn’t understand where the film went. These things might sound funny to us now, but it wasn’t that long ago that they all seemed like science fiction.
In fact, I remember clearly when I first heard about a camera on a mobile phone. I believe my words were, “That’s ridiculous. Why would anyone need that?”
Well, I was wrong, very wrong. Mobile photography has come an extremely long way, and our phones have replaced many items we used to use, whether it was a music player, calculator, media consumption device, computer (I do over 90% of my work on my mobile phone, including writing these words), and of course, the camera. The gap between what a phone can photograph and what a professional camera can do is closing rapidly. We might not be quite there yet, a professional photographer will claim, but we sure are close and getting closer with every release of a new smartphone.
One of the most fascinating uses of the mobile camera is in the medical field. We are talking about cameras in some cases with 100-plus megapixel sensors. However, even normal smartphones, such as the latest iPhones, have cameras that can easily compete with professional medical equipment used to detect medical conditions. The potential here is endless, as we all walk around with smartphones in our pockets.
The treatment of skin conditions is a perfect example. An Israeli company called DermaDetect is using the cameras on our mobile phones to help diagnose skin disorders.
DermaDetect is not the first company to take such an approach. Another Israeli company we’ve discussed in the past, Zebra Medical, is doing the same thing, but for a different area of medicine.
DermaDetect has developed a platform based on proprietary artificial-intelligence technology that enables the analysis of digital skin images, symptoms and medical history in order to provide differential diagnoses, recommended treatments and future management of skin disorders. The system does not rely solely on decoding the skin images, but combines information pertaining to the disorder provided by patients in a short AI-based questionnaire they are asked to fill out when the case is opened.
With a universal shortage of dermatologists, and an increase in the number of skin disorders requiring medical attention, wait times can reach months. The majority of the common skin-condition cases reach primary care physicians or non-specialist clinicians, meaning patients are often misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all or not referred to a dermatologist’s review. According to a recent study, accuracy can be as low as 24% when seen by a general practitioner compared to 77% accuracy when the patient is seen by a dermatologist.
Because most skin conditions are not verified with pathology tests, remote differential diagnosis can be used for decision-making around workup and treatment. DermaDetect’s technology may be an effective aid to clinicians to help them arrive at a more complete differential diagnosis, rapidly triage cases and to focus on cases that are further along in the care process or which require specialized dermatological care.
Today, DermaDetect’s FDA/CE cleared platform serves more than 2.5 million patients while empowering physicians by augmenting the current clinical work flow, helping them manage the ever-increasing workload without compromising quality of care.
With headquarters in Science Park in Rehovot, DermaDetect stands out from other tele-health companies in its unique asynchronous model. While most remote tele-health models are based on video conferencing that requires the doctor to be in-clinic at the same time as the patient, the asynchronous model enables the dermatologist to handle cases offline, promising patients shorter wait times.
The company was founded by four partners in 2017. It now has more than 10 employees working full-time on the vision of making digital dermatology a reality, so that any patients with skin disorders can receive quick, efficient and reliable diagnoses, treatments and follow-up plans, regardless of where they are located.
The co-founders included Eugene Dicker, a serial entrepreneur with several success stories behind him, and three doctors, including Prof. Arieh Ingber, who led the dermatology department at Hadassah-University Medical Center and has published more than 200 papers and textbooks in the field of dermatology.
The company’s ultimate vision is very far from the current model in which you can often wait months to get an appointment with a dermatologist, frequently having to travel long distances and taking off time from work in order to spend even more time in the waiting room.
Does that sound efficient to you?
Thankfully, this reality is now changing as a result of DermaDetect. While clinics are improving their work flow and efficiency, patients are enjoying quicker response times and more precise diagnosis and treatment of disorders without the hassle and cost of in-clinic visits.
In addition to the tremendous impact DermaDetect has on the quality of patient care and efficiency of the healthcare provider, it is also important to note that early diagnosis and efficiency of healthcare contributes to a significant savings in overall healthcare costs.
The company has raised over $2 million from eHealth Ventures, Together, Maccabi VC and angel investors and is now raising its round A from strategic investors. The company was originally founded after a pictures were sent over WhatsApp, and a phone call that led to a diagnosis and effective treatment that took seconds, as opposed to hours or even days.
Finally, DermaDetect will soon be announcing a very exciting strategic partnership with the biggest tele-medicine provider in Israel that will streamline the process of remote care over the Internet.
I have to admit, when phone cameras just hit the market, I never imagined that these devices would be used to save lives. I could not be happier to have been proved wrong.