Google has helped billions of people in their daily searches of knowledge. Many of these searches are related to health, with over 10 billion of them are about skin, nails, or hair issues.
Some people would even call the search engine "Dr. Google" because it has been the source of much information that could be or could not be accurate. It has been linked to cyberchondria or also known as Googling until a rash becomes a skin cancer.
But during the I/O conference, the same event where Google introduced LaMDA and MUM, the tech giant introduced its new dermatology feature that uses machine learning to identify 288 skin ailments ranging from acne to melanoma based on submitted photos.
Google's AI-Powered Dermatology Tool: A "Low Risk" Medical Device
Dr. Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer of Google and a former assistant secretary of health under the Obama administration, said that the new AI tool could list possible diagnoses matching the dermatological conditions shown in the submitted photograph, regardless of skin types and tones.
Google wrote in their blog that they receive over ten billion searches about skin, hair, and nails every year. But because users have a hard time describing their condition through search terms alone, they do not usually get an accurate diagnosis for their ailments.
The tech giant's photo-based AI dermatology tool is designed to cover up to 90% of the most frequently searched dermatology-related inquiries in the Google search engine.
For each matching condition, the AI tool will also present dermatologist-reviewed information and answers to the most frequently asked questions and will also show images from the web.
Google noted that their new AI tool is neither intended to provide any diagnosis nor be a substitute for the medical advice of a specialist, or an in-person examination. Rather, it only gives the user access to authoritative information to make more informed choices and decide what their next step will be.
The NY Post reported that the European Union (EU) has already cleared the tool as a "low-risk" medical device, which means that Europeans will be able to access it when it is launched in a few months. However, the said tool is not yet approved for use in the US.
How Accurate is the Google AI-Powered Dermatology Tool?
The study, entitled "A deep learning system for differential diagnosis of skin diseases" published in the medical journal Nature Medicine in 2020, showed that the Ai dermatology tool of Google is just as accurate as a group of dermatologists at identifying skin conditions. The study also suggests that the tool outperforms non-specialist, such as primary care doctors and nurse practitioners.
"Once you launch the tool, 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 tool narrow down the possibilities," Google wrote.
The company cautions the public, saying that a visit to a dermatologist's clinic should not be canceled as it is not a substitute for medical advice. They wrote that there might be conditions that require a clinician's review, in-person examination, or additional testing, like biopsy.
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