Dortmund | 29. September 2021
Upload photos of the changes on the skin and receive a diagnosis from a dermatologist within 24 hours – that’s how the dermanostic app works. adesso has now teamed up with the start-up to investigate whether the skin photos can be automatically analysed in future so as to provide diagnoses even faster.
The potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is enormous. The technology is able to improve many processes in the running of hospitals and, with them, patient care. It also helps with the development of new treatment methods and the diagnosis of illnesses. The potential for analysing images is particular extensive, because the algorithms are excellent at detecting abnormalities in the images that indicate diseases. It also offers a wide range of opportunities for the medical start-up dermanostic, with its app of the same name that helps detect skin diseases and which relies on adesso’s comprehensive expertise in evaluating the potential of AI.
Within the scope of a proof of concept (PoC), adesso teamed up with dermanostic to investigate whether and how machine learning models can be trained to detect skin diseases, in order to enable automated diagnoses in future. The AI specialists at adesso refined existing image evaluation models and trained them using over 50,000 actual skin images from the dermanostic app. The challenge presented with this approach was that smartphone photos are usually imperfect, meaning that the algorithms not only have to deal with poorly lit photos that are sometimes out of focus, but also reliably identify the parts of the skin in the photo and the areas of the skin to be examined. It is also crucial that the selection of images used during the training phase is well balanced so that the algorithms do not become one-sided and simply suggest common skin issues, such as acne, because they are usually correct.
adesso and dermanostic have obtained important insights through the PoC, such as that a larger volume and wider variety of training data is needed with different skin types and skin diseases. In addition, it is sensible to perform image presegmentation to train the algorithms in a more targeted manner regarding specific diseases, and to label the relevant image contents to improve recognition. Both of these tasks need to take place automatically due to the large volume of images. The experts have already tested this in the PoC and have achieved significantly better training results through this method. More specific information in the app, such as how to focus photos, could also be helpful in the future to improve image quality and facilitate automated diagnoses.
“It is unbelievably exciting to partner with dermanostic on their journey. Our PoC has brought us a huge step forward and we have collected valuable findings regarding the conditions necessary to allow automated evaluation of skin images for the detection of skin diseases,” says Patrice Schwarz, Senior Data Scientist at adesso. “We will now prepare a general approach for the processing of data, which can then be used in follow-up projects.”
Dr Ole Martin, managing director at dermanostic, adds: “The collaboration with adesso was very fruitful and delivered interesting results, which we are now using in other projects. This is because the development of a machine learning model to identify skin diseases offers us and our patients enormous opportunities as it allows us to make diagnoses even faster and more precisely.”
A skin diagnosis, therapy and prescription in 24 hours, maximum: dermanostic can be used to contact a dermatologist through the app of the same name, any time and from any location. All patients need to do is upload three photos of the affected skin areas and fill out a questionnaire. The photos are then assessed by specially trained skin specialists. Due to the high quality of care, 92 % of patients are treated in full via the app and do not need another visit to a dermatologist. The start-up from Düsseldorf is one of the pioneers in the digitalisation of healthcare and has successfully treated over 30,000 patients in its first year. dermanostic and the team of doctors are known throughout Germany from various appearances: SternTV, WDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Handelsblatt, and countless other business and health magazines.