Google’s Derm Assist AI tool

Google is making a big move into healthcare with its announcement last week of a new AI skin care tool, Derm Assist, which is set to launch in Europe later this year. The new tool received a Class I medical device CE mark from European regulators, and is backed by landmark research that was published in Nature Medicine this time last year, showing how Google’s AI model was trained on more than 16,000 real-world dermatology cases and achieved accuracy on a par with US board-certified dermatologists. Another more recent study in JAMA Network indicated the AI tool also significantly improved diagnostic accuracy of non-derma specialists such as GPs.

In its blog announcement, Google said: “With our CE marked AI-powered dermatology assist tool, a web-based application that we aim to make available for early testing in the EU later this year, it’s easier to figure out what might be going on with your skin. Simply use your phone’s camera to take three images of the skin, hair or nail concern from different angles. You’ll then be asked questions about your skin type, how long you’ve had the issue and other symptoms that help the AI to narrow down the possibilities. The AI model analyses all of this information and draws from its knowledge of 288 conditions to give you a list of possible conditions that you can then research further. It’s not meant to be a replacement for diagnosis, but rather a good place to start.”

Google said that it sees billions of Google Searches every year related to skin, nail and hair issues, but that it remains difficult for people to describe what they see on their skin through words alone. According to the FT, Google cited studies showing that people only diagnose themselves correctly 13% of the time when it comes to skin conditions, presenting a huge opportunity for the Derm Assist tool. In the blog announcement, Google provided a visual walkthrough of how the tool will work on smartphones, starting with a prompt to submit a picture of your “skin concern” (examples include moles, birthmarks and rashes), with the visual information then analysed by the AI before being converted into a gallery of suggested conditions.

Google is keen to emphasis the inclusivity of its AI model, stating: “To make sure we’re building for everyone, our model accounts for factors like age, sex, race and skin types – from pale skin that does not tan to brown skin that rarely burns. We developed and fine-tuned our model with de-identified data encompassing around 65,000 images and case data of diagnosed skin conditions, millions of curated skin concern images and thousands of examples of healthy skin – all across different demographics.”

Review New Product Activity and the latest digital health developments across the industry with Innovation in CHC 2021, the latest report from CHC New Products Tracker. For more information, or to order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com

What future for AI in healthcare?

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One of the chapters in Nicholas Hall’s recently published New Paradigms report, entitled The Digital Revolution, provides some compelling examples of consumer healthcare companies and OTC brands that are thriving in the digital era. While key marketers like GSK were slow to invest in digital, the tide is now turning – in its 2018 annual report, GSK said it had “significantly” increased its advertising spend in online media because it is delivering a “far higher return” than traditional TV – despite continuing reservations from some companies like P&G about the way digital budgets are deployed.

One emerging technology that has an uncertain future in healthcare is artificial intelligence. Back in March, a report published by MMC Ventures (in partnership with Barclays) predicted that AI can “unlock a paradigm shift in healthcare”, particularly in diagnosis, drug discovery and monitoring. According to MMC’s research, health & wellbeing is a “focal point” for AI entrepreneurship – 21% of start-ups serve the sector, more than any other sector – and, over the next decade, “developers will have a greater impact on the future of healthcare than doctors”.

An example of innovation here is L’Oreal’s augmented reality and artificial intelligence entity, ModiFace, which has led to the launch of a consumer digital skin ageing diagnostic tool. Targeting women, its first application is Vichy SkinConsultAI – based on ModiFace’s AI-powered algorithm – launched in Canada in January 2019 and rolling out across the brand’s websites globally over the course of this year.

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However, security concerns continue to be the main stumbling block for AI. According to research published in Digital Health last month, public concern about accuracy, cybersecurity and the inability of AI-led chatbots to sympathise may be standing in the way of artificial intelligence’s successful introduction into healthcare.

A University of Westminster-led team surveyed 216 participants on a range of demographic and attitudinal variables including questions about acceptability and perceived effectiveness of AI in healthcare. The results identified three broad themes: “understanding of chatbots”, “AI hesitancy” and “motivations for health chatbots”. The team suggests that designers of AI-led chatbots need to employ user-centred and theory-based approaches to address patient concerns and to optimise user experience in order to achieve the best uptake and utilisation.

Embracing Tech and Digital Health are two of the key themes at our OTC.NewDirections Executive Conference, taking place in London on 14 November 2019! Nicholas Hall will be joined by experts from companies including Bayer, Mundipharma and J&J to review these issues, as well as others impacting our industry, including the status of Medical Cannabis in Europe, Growing Brands through Innovation and the ultimate theme of ensuring that you are Keeping Consumers in the Spotlight. To find out more, or to reserve your place, please contact jennifer.odonnell@NicholasHall.com without delay!