Editor's note: A previous version of this article said that the Aysa app would be sold with a $1.99 annual subscription. This has been corrected to $9.99.
Clinical decision support tool maker VisualDx officially launched Aysa, its first consumer-facing app, last month at Health 2.0 in San Francisco. The app allows users to upload pictures of skin lesions or rashes, enter some additional information about themselves and receive suggestions of what condition they might have and what actions to take next.
“We argue we’ve developed the world’s best professional medical image collection of skin, and that know-how that we used to develop VisualDx is now leveraged for a consumer-facing tool,” CEO Dr. Art Papier told MobiHealthNews at the show last month. “It’s all based on the same data. So the new product, called Aysa, was just launched in the app store in conjunction with this meeting. It’s basically your copilot as a person when you have a skin problem. Eventually it’s going to grow into other areas, as VisualDx grew into other areas.”
The app will be free for an introductory period, and then sold for $9.99 annually. The app is not intended to be a diagnostic tool, but it does give users options after giving them information about their probable condition. Currently, users can select “Prevention and Self-Care” for links to buy over-the-counter remedies from Walmart. But VisualDx intends to add other stores, as well as links to initiate a telemedicine visit or find an in-person clinic.
What's the impact
A lot of startups are starting to offer mobile tools like this to serve as “first lines of defense” for concerned consumers. Dermatology is a particularly attractive area for this because of a national shortage of dermatologists. VisualDx stands out as a company that’s moving from provider-focused clinical decision support into the consumer world, which should lend it more credibility to its platform.
Papier argues that services like this are crucial, even acknowledging their limitations, because people are already looking online for medical answers, so they might as well have the best ones possible.
“We know that everybody searches Google with their symptoms or they go to WebMD and use a symptom checker,” he said. “So the real question is how do you develop something that’s an educational symptom checker that’s safe? The art of this is to do a better job of educating so people know on a weekend, do I need to run to urgent care on a weekend, or can I get some better information that will help me make some decisions and then I’ll see the doctor later if necessary.”
Aysa also makes use of CoreML, a relatively new Apple feature that allows companies to run machine learning algorithms directly on the phone rather than in the cloud. VisualDx was even name-dropped by Tim Cook on a recent investor call as an example of the feature’s potential impact in healthcare.
Finally, VisualDx’s extensive database allows it to address the problem of racial disparities in digital dermatology access.
“One of the things we’re really proud of at VisualDx is for the last 18 years we’ve been cataloguing the spectrum of disease in people of all colors,” Papier said. “So the goal of Aysa is to give a really unique experience to someone, if they have light skin or dark skin. We give them a very custom experience.”
What is the trend
Partly because of machine learning, dermatology apps, popular in the first wave of mobile health apps, are making a comeback. MobiHealthNews catalogued this trend, and gave some examples of companies in the space, in an In-Depth back in July.