Search engine giant Google has been developing an app that it claims can help identify the cause of a range of skin issues using a phone camera and artificial intelligence.
In a keynote speech at Google’s annual I/O conference, the “dermatology assist tool” was designed to help the 2bn people in the world who suffer from some form of skin issue, who may not be close enough to a specialist or can book a skin clinic consultation.
It works by asking for three pictures of the rash, lump or issue from different angles, before asking questions about skin type, length of time and other symptoms to help the tool narrow down potential options before giving a list of suggested conditions.
It stresses, of course, that the tool is not intended to provide a diagnosis, but instead aims to give people access to information so they can make their next step.
The tool works by using machine learning, which is where an artificial intelligence algorithm is trained to look for specific patterns and then automatically looks for matches.
We have seen it be used as a part of skin cancer diagnoses since at least 2017.
However, dermatologists have quickly raised concerns about potential overdiagnosis caused by tools that cannot tell the difference between malignant and benign lesions, as well as the need for standardisation causing the AI to miss rare skin conditions.
Careful use of AI tools such as this can be useful, as has been seen with the increased use of machine learning in laboratories. However, it comes at the risk of misdiagnosing people who are healthy as sick and people who are sick as healthy.
Ultimately, if you have any skin concerns, it is best to book an appointment with an expert dermatologist.