There’s an App for That – Leveraging Machine Learning to Improve Health Care Decisions
The mission to Mars is shaping the future of patient diagnosis. While highly trained, there’s no guarantee that this first squad of astronauts will include a physician. Their spacecraft is transportation as well as home, office, research laboratory, and on occasion, the hospital. Astronaut health care must be a self-contained, closed system.
The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) is advancing technologies that will enable all crew members to stay in charge of their health. Yet on Earth, there’s also a tremendous need to bring health information to non-experts. There is a shortage of health care workers globally. Medicine is only getting more complex. With so much data available, it’s a challenge for doctors to stay up to date.
Diagnosis time could be sped up with access to smart systems that help answer essential medical questions. Could we assist providers and patients (who are one and the same, when you are in space) in answering the basic questions: What’s my diagnosis? How should I test for it? What are the treatments?
The Need for Autonomous Health Care
Art Papier, M.D., and his team at VisualDX have developed an app that combines machine learning with clinical data to allow non-healthcare professionals to diagnose certain conditions. TRISH is supporting VisualDx to translate the technology for astronaut populations in deep space.
According to Dr. Papier, VisualDX is all about augmenting the brain with tools. It takes computer-based information and combines good judgment, something he refers to as an augmented intelligence philosophy.
VisualDx’s app Aysa provides an autonomous and personalized diagnosis of skin conditions. Users take a picture of their skin issue, which is analyzed using medical documentation and machine learning. The platform guides the user in responding to a few questions and provides diagnosis results, clinical information, and related images.
While the app currently focuses on skin conditions, it’s being expanded to provide medical diagnosis for eye, oral, and muscular-skeletal issues.
Applications for Space and on Earth
VisualDx is advancing medical care for deep space missions, where astronauts must treat each other when a trip to the doctor’s office isn’t possible. With this tool, astronauts could take a photo of a skin condition and consult an onboard digital platform to guide their diagnosis - no medical degree required.
Space is the most hostile environment imaginable, yet the approach works for terrestrial communities with limited access to medical resources. Recently, VisualDX announced it was awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build a diagnostic tool that can work without an internet connection. This will arm astronauts, physicians, and health care workers in spaces where there aren’t clinical resources or a Wi-Fi connection.
“I think it’s incredible that we have people that are willing to take that risk in the nature of exploration and getting out there to have humans just do the impossible, and in our work, we want to contribute to that mission [to Mars],” -Art Papier, M.D.
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