Dermatologists embrace the ‘dermoverse’, AI and skin

Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a formidable ally in the field of dermatology, poised to become an indispensable component of patient consultations within the next four to five years. Dermatology experts are recognizing the vast potential within the dermoverse—a term coined by combining “dermatology” and “metaverse.” From robot office assistants to revolutionary virtual training and simulation opportunities, the metaverse is paving the way for groundbreaking advancements in dermatological treatments.

At the 50th National Congress of the Spanish Academy for Dermatology and Venereology, a group of dermatologists well-versed in new technologies convened to discuss the metaverse. This collective term encompasses all virtual spaces that bridge the gap between physical and digital reality, providing users with avenues to interact through their avatars. It is within this realm that these experts are discovering novel possibilities for enhancing patient care and treatment.

Telehealth visits, immersive surgical planning, and virtual training using 3D skin models represent just a few of the potential opportunities that lie within the metaverse. Dr. Miriam Fernández-Parrado, a dermatologist at Navarre Hospital in Pamplona, Spain, remarked, “The list could be endless. The metaverse could signify a significant advancement in teledermatology, an area that has matured rapidly in response to the pandemic.”

In recent years, online screenings have demonstrated their efficacy, resulting in substantial time and cost savings, along with improved efficiency in initial screenings and early detection of serious diseases. Estimates suggest that over 70% of cases have the potential to be treated remotely. Dr. Fernández-Parrado emphasized that the aim is not to replace in-person visits, but rather to offer a high-quality alternative that satisfies the growing need for doctor-patient interactions, without compromising the human touch.

Always on duty, AI has the potential to assist dermatologists in their day-to-day interactions with patients. As Dr. Julián Conejo-Mir, professor and head of dermatology at the Virgen del Rocío Hospital in Seville, explains, AI is already a reality. However, he believes that addressing 70% of dermatology cases accurately with a simple photograph, without physically examining the patients, is unlikely to become a reality within the next two decades.

At present, algorithms can successfully identify tumors with accuracy rates ranging from 80% to 90% using photographs and dermoscopic images. Accuracy rates increase further when both types of images are available. This success can be attributed to the stationary nature of tumor morphology.

However, for inflammatory conditions, accurate diagnosis typically does not exceed 60%. Inflammatory conditions are characterized by variable morphology, which can change significantly from one day to the next and vary depending on anatomical location and patient age.

Dr. Conejo-Mir suggests that accurate diagnosis rates might reach 70% once metaclinics, equipped with 3D virtual reality capabilities, are established. In such a setting, clinicians could view patients in real-time from their offices, especially benefiting individuals with limited mobility or those residing far from hospitals. Nevertheless, this milestone is still a decade or more away, pending the development of more powerful computers, likely quantum computers.

The integration of AI into dermatological practice holds tremendous promise for the future. As we explore the possibilities within the metaverse, we anticipate transformative advancements that will enhance patient care, improve diagnostic accuracy, and revolutionise the way dermatologists interact with their patients.

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