Is Technology Driving the Evolution of Dermatology?
Dermatology beyond borders” is the theme of the WCD2023 Congress and also reflects the ongoing commitment between dermatology and innovation.
The skin is both a repository where water, protein, lipids (fats), different minerals and chemicals are stored, as well as our body’s prime defence against viruses, bacteria and fungi. The continuous exposure to these external threats causes deterioration of the skin’s quality over time, which calls for its care and protection. Apart from age-old advice such as regular use of moisturisers and photoprotection, we may now harness the power of new technologies to take skin care a step further.
In recent decades, significant technological advances have been made in the field of medical devices. This has reshaped dermatologic practices, and we expect to see this transformation accelerate in the coming years. 3D printers may be capable of “printing out” synthetic skin for patients with chronic wounds or burns in the near future. Smart algorithms are now applied to the diagnosis of skin cancers, and patients can even download skin cancer detection apps onto their smartphones and try to make their own diagnoses before seeing a doctor. A dermatologist of the future will be required to integrate these technologies in their clinical practices for the benefit of their patients.
Telemedicine is not new to dermatology pre-Covid 19 but the pandemic has certainly accelerated its adoption. Telemedicine can be conducted in a number of ways. The most basic is just a simple video call with a dermatologist, where patients can also share pictures or videos of their skin problem with their smartphones. While poor image quality has traditionally impaired diagnostic accuracy, artificial intelligence algorithms can potentially overcome some of these limitations if pictures of the patient’s lesion or condition can also be analysed by a computer during the consultation. This is an example of big data improving the quality of care, reducing costs and optimising the use of resources.
Robotics and use of medical robots are coming to dermatology, especially in the field of medical aesthetics. Dermatoses that are treated with lasers or other energy devices can potentially be assisted by robots. In some studies comparing the accuracy and consistency of laser irradiation treatments performed by humans and robotic arms, robot-guided treatments have been shown to be superior.
Technology is enabling innovations that produce better outcomes. Recovering from skin injuries usually takes a long time; a 10 mm cut usually takes 1 to 2 weeks to heal. Researchers are therefore working to accelerate the healing process and the natural responses of the human organism for more effective skin regeneration.
We now have a huge variety of wearable devices and health sensors able to measure and track every imaginable vital sign or indicator of health or disease. The data collected from a wide and diverse population will, in the future, provide the big data that will guide the development of artificial intelligence algorithms that are able to aid diagnosis of many disorders.
Social media is making a significant contribution to dermatology; Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are powerful communication tools and sources of information, overtaking traditional mainstream media. They can be the voice for prevention campaigns and shared knowledge throughout society, both within and beyond the dermatology community.
In short, technology is permeating every aspect of our lives. We can no longer ignore the close link between technology and dermatology. Technology is changing the practice of dermatology. At the same time, dermatology is using technology to improve patient understanding and accessibility of care.
By the Editorial Team