Smart algorithms will soon begin diagnosing skin conditions, dermatologists will consult patients online, and 3D printers will print synthetic skin to combat tissue shortages. There is plenty going on in dermatology and healthcare professionals need to be prepared for technological changes in time before they start browsing the speciality. If you’re planning on attending a dermatology conference, then you should pick out the ones that will help you learn about such developments the most.
Any dermatology conference that touches on topics such as the ones highlighted below is guaranteed to be worth your time.
Digital technologies are on the way to help dermatologists diagnose and treat skin diseases better and more efficiently. Innovative solutions have a huge impact on health care in general, but in the case of certain sub-areas, such as surgery, even the transformation of the entire specialty can be expected. As for dermatology, it will probably not experience such a radical shift as surgery, but the shift will still be decisive. Technology has been shaping dermatological practices for years, and it will accelerate in the years to come. Detailed below are all the digital solutions that will help healthcare professionals truly bring dermatology into the 21st century.
Since it is easy to detect skin conditions, and smartphones paired with internet connections (that are becoming increasingly faster) make it easy to send photos or footage anywhere, telehealth solutions arose naturally in dermatology. Teledermatology service options are booming. They all work on the same principle – they promise to connect patients with an online dermatologist for a consultation within a very short time. Usually, people can upload their photos to a certain platform, and dermatologists give advice based on that.
The popularity of existing platforms shows that there was an urgent need for this solution. One such platform already had over 7,000 cases submitted from all over the globe. It also turned out that the vast majority of these issues were pretty harmless – the platform found that 70% of all the cases they looked at could be self-treated, and they advised the patient to do further testing in the 30% of cases remaining. It’s a win-win for everyone – patients don’t have to wait in crowded waiting rooms for an exam, while dermatologists can handle the easiest cases in less time online.
Analysing electrical health records (EHRs) and other huge datasets can optimise even gigantic systems such as healthcare. Data analysis improves the quality and coordination of care, reduces costs incurred, and avoids the unnecessary use of resources. Dermatologists have also recognized the enormous potential of big data in bringing lasting change to their specialty.
The American Academy of Dermatology initiated a clinical registry called DataDerm back in 2016. The database was created by dermatologists and links millions of patient data from thousands of dermatologists across the United States. It eliminates the pain of reporting and allows healthcare professionals to exhibit the quality of care they offer to patients, policymakers, and the medical community. At the same time, it gives each member a private analysis of their practice’s data against national averages – as far down as the patient level. It is ideal for setting standards in dermatology, measuring the performance of each participant, and guaranteeing the average quality of care.
Amazing high-tech machines have appeared on the medical scene lately. One company installed the first commercial whole-body skin lesion mapping system. It is able to perform a 360-degree scan of the whole body and identify any lesions on the skin. A development that has even more potential is the possibility for robots to help dermatologists, especially cosmetic dermatologists, in the future.
Many types of skin cancer and other skin problems are treated with laser therapies, and a study has found robots may be able to help with that. Researchers compared the precision and consistency of laser irradiation treatments performed by humans and robotic arms, and investigators found that robot-guided treatments were superior to manually-guided treatments. In the next few years, laser therapies will be performed by “robotic surgeons” with humans controlling the process.
Deep learning algorithms are particularly effective in recognizing certain images, so they will, for sure, have a place in medical specialties’ innovations concerning medical imaging. For instance, IBM decided to let dermatologists leverage the results of its deep learning platform, Watson, to diagnose melanoma and other sorts of skin cancer quicker, more accurately, and preferably without having to need numerous biopsies. Experts at IBM discovered that their deep learning system was able to achieve 76% accuracy in diagnosing melanoma cases based on dermatological images, while the average accuracy for the eight dermatologists on this dataset was 70.5%. This is a very promising result.
Researchers at Stanford University conducted a similar experiment. They created an artificially intelligent diagnostic algorithm for skin cancer using an algorithm developed by Google that has already been trained to identify 1.28 million images from 1,000 object categories. Next, they created a database of nearly 130,000 skin disease images representing more than 2,000 different ailments; and trained their algorithm to visually diagnose potential cancer. From the first test, it performed with inspiring precision. It performed at least as well as the dermatologists participating in the research, which is very impressive. Now, the team plans to make the algorithm compatible with smartphones in the near future, bringing reliable skin cancer diagnostics to your fingertips. Mind-blowing innovation in sight.
The answer to organ shortages of all kinds, including skin, as well as the growing reluctance to test new cosmetics, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals on animals, is 3D printing. Many innovators have already recognized this, and much research is ongoing. Spanish scientists, in collaboration with a globally renowned bioengineering company, have presented a prototype 3D bioprinter capable of creating fully functional human skin. Another team in the United States has also developed a similar prototype capable of creating synthetic skin. A San Diego-based bioprinting company Organovo partnered with cosmetics giant L’Oréal in 2015 to create 3D-printed skin.
3D printing could help make sure that critical tissue shortages, which were reported, for instance, in Australia back in 2016 or in Japan in March of 2017, will never again impede the tasks of healthcare professionals.
Skin wounds take a long time to heal. For a 10mm cut, it takes 1-2 weeks to turn into a scar and then fade slowly. Researchers are working on various innovations to shorten the healing process and accelerate the human body’s natural responses for more effective skin regeneration.
One biotherapeutics firm has developed a skin cell spray to improve the conventional treatment of leg ulcers. According to one study, applied before wrapping the leg with compression bandages, the spray improved the extent of healing and did so in less time than healing using just bandages. Another incredible innovation is one company’s development of an extracellular matrix that helps tissue regrowth – it even induced regrowth of an amputated fingertip in 2010. An almost identical extracellular matrix helped treat a US Marine who lost 70% of his thigh muscle in a mortar blast in Afghanistan. Researchers applied a “protein cocktail” and growth components derived from pig bladders, and only after a few weeks, the Marine’s leg muscles started to grow back.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are the social media platforms that anyone with an internet connection is aware of and most probably uses. They are convenient, modern communication tools, sources of information, and common knowledge, they function as community-building platforms and spaces to promote great causes. This isn’t that different when it comes to healthcare — or dermatology, for that matter.
For example, one of the first Web 2.0 medical referral services began offering Dermatology and Web 2.0, a completely free-of-cost comprehensive resource containing all Web 2.0 tools, from highly informative blogs and communities to online slideshows and mobile apps. It was designed to help healthcare professionals interested in dermatology find the best resources online. Additionally, La Roche-Posay, a division of L’Oréal, uses social media to promote its SOS Save our Skin campaign in collaboration with the US Women’s Dermatologic Society. The American Academy of Dermatology launched a campaign that encourages women to check both themselves and their partners for signs of skin cancer. The AAD launched the hashtag #SpotSkinCancer on social media, which encourages everyone to share their photos or videos to raise awareness of the importance of detecting skin cancer early on.
As the market for health sensors and wearables explodes, one can find all kinds of tiny gadgets measuring their vital signs and health parameters. In the future, some of these devices won’t just make it possible to take measurements but also to diagnose or participate in the treatment of certain diseases. Skin conditions could be the first to be diagnosed or treated with small sensor-like materials or gadgets. L’Oréal introduced its wearable sensor to measure sun exposure and warn the user when they are about to get sunburned. The patch changes color to prevent skin cancer.
Additionally, a group of Indian researchers has come up with a unique patch for the treatment of skin cancer. The patch, which is infused with phosphorus-32, a radioactive isotope, helps treat certain types of cancer. The researchers conducted a small study on the effectiveness of the patch, and the results were very promising. Ten patients with skin cancer on the face were treated with the patch, and three months after the treatment, biopsies showed no signs of their tumors. When biopsies were performed after six months, however, basal cell carcinomas had returned in two of the patients. This is a great achievement, however, the hope is that other similar research projects will continue to develop on this in the future.
The massive potential of digital technologies to change the landscape of dermatology very soon is quite apparent. Therefore, any student aspiring to become a dermatologist, any practicing dermatologist, any researcher in the field of dermatology, and anyone engaged in the field of dermatology, would do themselves and their careers a world of good by learning about these developments on their own as well as by partaking in the top, dermatology conferences scheduled to take place near them.
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