Need a Dermatologist in Your iPhone? There’s an App for That.

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Skin of Mine 02
The Skin of Mine app will help you track all kinds of conditions, including your moles. Another great tool in the fight against skin cancer.

It’s time to show some me some skin. Don’t worry, it’s for your own good. The latest medical app for your smart phone aims to put a dermatologist in your pocket and keep your moles in check. Skin of Mine from Medical Image Mining Labs lets you take pictures of surface blemishes, track them, and seek a consultation from a real world doctor if you need. While not a complete encyclopedia of dermatological conditions, the app can handle common ailments such as irregular moles, psoriasis, spider veins, and acne. Learn how to use the app in the demonstration videos below. Currently available for $3 on iTunes, Skin of Mine empowers users to take a larger role in their medical maintenance. Considering the prevalence of skin cancer, and the importance of tracking changing moles, this app could very well be a lifesaver.

Before Medical Image Mining Labs launched their iPhone app, they started a website that performed the same basic function. Register, upload an image, share results with doctors. (At the moment, those virtual consultations are only available to users in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Nebraska and Lousiana.) The following video gives further details of how Skin of Mine works:

In the next video we see how the iPhone app for Skin of Mine functions in much the same way as the website. This video really isn’t as good as the first, and it doesn’t have audio, so feel to skip it if you already watched the one above.

At the moment Medical Image Mining has built Skin of Mine to monitor the following: moles, psoriasis, vitiligio, acne, wrinkles, evenness of skin tone, melasma, redness, lip plumpness, teeth whiteness, and spider veins. While that’s not nearly a comprehensive list of everything in the dermatological handbook, it covers a wide range of what you’d commonly seek advice for from your neighborhood physician. Some features, like the wrinkles, evenness, plumpness, etc aren’t even very medical, but they give the app a limited appeal for cosmetic minded users as well.

The concept behind the Skin of Mine website and the iPhone app is a winner. No doubt about it. Many of us don’t have health insurance, and most of us don’t get ourselves to dermatologists as often as we may need. Even when we do see a doctor we may not remember all the tiny moles, spots, and freckles that we should have looked at. Skin of Mine lets you approach your health at your own pace, taking pics of suspicious blemishes as you find them. It also lets you track these images over time, giving you and your health professional a valuable record when evaluating your skin. The automated analysis of moles, including their irregular borders, size, and color is a nice feature, but no substitute at the moment for sound medical advice. I see Skin of Mine serving as a tool to enhance the doctor-patient relationship, not replace it.

Like all medical procedures, however, monitoring yourself with Skin of Mine has hidden prices. While the app is cheap, consultations aren’t necessarily going to be. You never have to show your pics to one of Medical Image Mining’s associated medical professionals, but if you do fees can run around $40 or more per instance. Furthermore, if you actually find something you need to check out with someone in person, you’re still facing the same rounds of multiple doctor’s fees and visits that you would otherwise. Even if you’re saving your life, you’re probably not saving money.

We’ve seen a rising trend of medical app for smart phones in the past few years, many crafted to be used by physicians. Skin of Mine, however, is part of a growing number of such applications aimed directly at the patient, and I wonder if that isn’t where the real story lies. Medical Image Mining may succeed or fail with its product, but the general trend towards empowering patients could make a huge impact on the way we view medical technology. For the time being, no app is a substitute for a real human doctor, but given enough time that will change. Well before we replace smart people with smart phones, however, these medical apps will allow semi-professional or lightly trained individuals to serve valuable roles in the health industry. Tech like this isn’t going to put doctors out of business, or turn patients into one man medical squads – but it very well might be the crutch we use to prop ourselves up as we deal with a rapidly aging population and a need for a great many more medical professionals. Skin of Mine and its cousins in the medical apps market may help revolutionize how we approach healthcare by diffusing responsibilities among a much wider crowd, including patients. …And it could help you keep your skin pretty. What more could you want?

[image and video credits: Medical Image Mining Labs]
[source: Skin of Mine]