Providing Better Dermatology Services with Open Innovation

Published Nov-12-19

The development of a novel solution to make it easier for doctors to provide better and more accurate information when patients’ skin conditions flare-up.

SkinSpecs, United States

The Story:

Providing Better Dermatology Services with Open Innovation There is a multitude of healthcare problems that can benefit from fresh and interdisciplinary thinking. One tried and tested way of accelerating the solving of these issues is through hackathons, open innovation events that bring together solvers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

Health++, Stanford University’s annual health hackathon is a two-day event that brings together engineers, designers, healthcare professionals and business experts to ideate, design and build solutions for some of healthcare’s most pressing issues.

The 2018 edition of the open innovation event started with a discussion of unmet needs in the healthcare industry. Nearly two dozen people gave one-minute descriptions of problems such as the proliferation of counterfeit drugs on the international market and the developmental lag for babies of low-income families.

Dermatology Issue

When organizers opened the floor for additional ideas Stanford dermatology resident Olga Afanasiev, MD, PhD stood up and talked about an inefficiency issue at the university’s dermatology clinic, namely, that physicians spent a lot of time during short patient visits trying to elicit information from people’s imperfect memories about past chronic flare-ups of skin conditions. She wondered if there was a better way that would leave healthcare professionals with more time to discuss prevention and treatment strategies with patients.

“In dermatology,” she told Scope an award-winning blog produced by the Stanford University School of Medicine “we need a robust way of monitoring chronic skin diseases to improve our health care delivery and patients' quality of life.”

Her talk resonated with several others in the room and together they formed a team and got to work. Within 24 hours they had created their innovative concept, a mobile app called SkinSpecs which allows patients to answer questions and upload smartphone-captured photos or videos of their skin conditions during a flare-up.

The data can then be compiled into an easily accessible dashboard to provide doctors with better and more accurate information about a patient's health rather than relying on their imperfect recall. In addition to improving patients' experiences, the app would save doctors time and money.

The team’s work caught the attention of the judges, a panel of physicians, investors and medical technology experts. SkinSpecs was the winner in the category “Best Understanding of an Unmet Need.”

Promising Results

Less than a year after the hackathon Olga Afanasiev and her team published an article about the app (SkinSpecs: A Mobile Solution that Addresses an Unmet Need for Tracking Chronic Skin Diseases in the Office and at Home) in The Journal of Cutaneous Medicine.

It discussed a study that tested a SkinSpecs mobile-based 3D imaging solution for chronic skin diseases to enhance clinical workflow and patient care. The system used video input to reconstruct 3D models of 16 different conditions from 31 patients.

The results showed the system was faster than a descriptive exam, standard photographs and original videos. According to the paper dermatologists that used the app preferred it for documentation over other capture modalities.

“SkinSpecs was favorably used by dermatologists, with high satisfaction with resolution, breadth of visual information, time and ability to pick up incidental findings,” explained the paper.

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