Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Future of Dermatology

One of the most exciting things about medicine is that it is constantly evolving. New technologies are changing the way doctors deliver care, the way patients engage in health care and the advancement of scientific research. Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for example. At the time of this post, the ALS Association had raised more than $94 million to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease by way of a bucket and a smart phone. As impressive as that is, it’s just a sample of the most extraordinary things happening at the touch of a button.

A recent issue of Dermatology World examined the future of technology in dermatology and how practice models are changing as a result. Below is a roundup of some of the latest – and future – advancements their panel of experts hope will help us take better care of our patients.

Pain-free exams

The idea: Using non-invasive devices to examine skin, make a diagnosis and monitor treatment – in person or from the comfort of your home is not far off. For example, MelaFind is already being used to see under the skin’s surface to determine whether a lesion needs to be biopsied, and a new device called Melanoscan can use psoriasis light boxes and 30 cameras to take full-body images and monitor lesions for change. The future of dermatology includes the possibility of patients attaching special microscopes to their phones and sending pictures of their skin to doctors from anywhere.

The bottom line: Patients save a trip to the doctor and discomfort from a painful biopsy, and doctors can provide more rapid and accurate diagnoses. The International Skin Imaging Collaboration Melanoma Project is developing standards around technology, techniques and terminology in order to regulate these practices.

Technology that facilitates patient-doctor communication

The idea: Computer-assisted diagnosis will be a game-changer for doctors and patients, according to Jack Lewin, MD, chairman of the National Coalition on Health Care. His prediction involves an app that would formulate a diagnosis based on patient and doctor input of symptoms, medical issues, etc. “That will allow us to reduce the disturbingly frequent rate of misdiagnosis and/or use of therapeutics that will not be helpful to a patient for a number of reasons: maybe because of their genetic individuality, maybe because of a history of allergy,” explained Dr. Lewin.

The bottom line: Together, doctors and patients working with computer software can provide a more accurate, low cost and timely method of diagnosis. Many apps are already in development for this.

Customized medication

The idea: Using an individual’s genome and the disease they have to create medication that is customized for them. While we are beginning to use more biologics, or drugs derived from living cells that target specific gene pathways of diseases, this treatment is still in its early days. Daniel M. Siegel, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the State University of New York at Downstate School of Medicine and past president of the Academy of Dermatology, hopes that as we get more targeted with biologics, we’ll get to a point where we can really target treatment toward a specific individual’s genetic makeup.

The bottom line: Biologics are believed to have fewer side effects than traditional medications because they are targeted to specific disease processes. While biologics are still being heavily scrutinized, several have already been approved by the FDA for treatment of psoriasis.

Greenville Dermatology strives to pursue the newest advances and cutting-edge technology to better serve our patients and is already using some of these resources. To learn more about how these advancements might help your skincare needs, call Greenville Dermatology today at (864) 242-5872 to schedule an appointment with our specialists.

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