Integrating Artificial Intelligence Into Health Care

How state-of-the-art skin imaging technology seeks to improve patient outcomes

Reviewed by: Adewole Adamson, MD, MPP
Written by: Ashley Lawrence

When most people hear the term artificial intelligence, the first thing that comes to mind are human-like robots with beyond-human cognitive abilities and the capacity to take over the world. While we may not be traveling through hyperspace on the Millennium Falcon with the ever-intelligent C-3PO or on the run from Skynet cyborg assassins sent back in time from a post-apocalyptic future, we are seeking ways to integrate artificial intelligence into health care.

UT Health Austin dermatologist Adewole Adamson, MD, MPP, shares, “Artificial intelligence is something that I’m interested in. I’ve written about it, and I’m hoping to better understand how this technology can be used to improve patient outcomes.” In his latest article, found here, Dr. Adamson discusses machine learning, a subbranch of artificial intelligence. He explains, “Machine-learning algorithms promise to deliver faster and more consistent diagnoses than humans and to ultimately improve patient care.” However, he is also mindful that artificial intelligence is relatively new in health care and should be used to augment and not replace the judgement of the physician.

Due to the generosity of Meredith’s Mission for Melanoma, the Dell Medical School was able to procure FotoFinder, a skin imaging technology that performs automated total body mapping. Now, Dr. Adamson’s patients at UT Health Austin can have their entire body mapped to analyze and more efficiently track any changes to their moles and other skin issues through a combination of high-resolution photography and artificial intelligence. Currently, UT Health Austin is one of only two providers in the state of Texas with access to this technology.

What is automated total body mapping?

Automated total body mapping, also referred to as mole mapping, is a procedure that uses both high-resolution photography and video dermoscopy to create an accurate skin map of a patient. The photos produced are referenced for follow-up skin exams and the detection of new or changing moles.

“Traditional mole mapping typically involves the physician comparing sets of photos taken anywhere between 1 and 10 years apart depending on the patient’s specific needs,” says Dr. Adamson. “And the great thing about this technology is that, if clinically necessary, it has the ability to compare the patient’s new map to their initial baseline map, analyzing and flagging any changes that have occurred. As a result, more minute changes in shape, growth, and appearance are immediately identified.”

How does it work?

The mapping process captures a map of the patient’s moles by taking photographs of their body from head to toe on all sides. “The procedure is painless, consists of less than 20 photos, and lasts no more than five minutes,” assures Dr. Adamson. Additionally, a special video microscope may be used to magnify images of certain moles to show a clearer image of the mole structure to help address any concerns.

A video tutorial of the mapping process can be found here.

What are the benefits of being mapped?

Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer. Melanoma can be potentially deadly, resulting in thousands of deaths per year. If detected early on, the cure rate is over 95% because it can be removed before it spreads to other parts of the body. In addition to providing preventive care, mole mapping can increase rates of early detection. “When mapping my patients, I can identify melanomas that are much thinner, at an earlier stage, and more easily treatable,” explains Dr. Adamson. “The mole mapping imaging technology can also assist with the analysis of moles using artificial intelligence. A major advantage is that mole mapping can potentially decrease the number of unnecessary biopsies for my patients.”

Who should consider getting mapped?

If you are at higher risk for developing melanoma or have identified suspicious moles on your skin, you should consider getting mapped.

High-risk patients typically answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions:

  • Do you have very light skin type that reacts sensitively to sunlight?
  • Did you have severe, blistering sunburns during childhood or adolescence?
  • Are you exposed to strong sunlight at regular intervals?
  • Do you have multiple moles (more than 50)?
  • Do you have many moles that are irregular in shape or color?
  • Do you have large moles (more than 2 inches in diameter)?
  • Have you noticed any new moles on your body?
  • Is there a history of skin cancer in your family?
  • Did you already have a melanoma?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your moles?

Using the “ABCDE” rule can also help you to recognize suspicious moles during self-evaluation.

ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • A for Asymmetry
  • B for Borders that are irregular, jagged, or blurred
  • C for Color variation
  • D for Diameter larger than the head of a pencil eraser
  • E for Evolving size, shape, color, bleeding, or other concerning symptoms

If you have observed one or more of the signs above, you should speak with your primary care physician about getting mapped. You can make an appointment with UT Health Austin by calling 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) or visiting online here.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.