An artificial intelligence-powered digital skin cancer diagnosis tool developed by Skin Analytics has been approved in the UK as a Class IIA medical device, enabling wider use of the technology in patient assessments.
DERM is being deployed in pilot studies at five NHS Trusts, for example to see if it can support GPs in referring patients to the urgent two-week referral for skin cancer enshrined in the NICE guidelines.
The tool has been used to assess more than 23,000 patients and discover nearly 1,500 cases of cancer, while reducing the number of dermatology appointments by more than 4,700, the company said.
Class IIA certification means DERM can be formally marketed in the UK, and according to Skin Analytics it will be the first and only AI-based dermatology technology to achieve this status.
DERM uses machine learning to use algorithms to recognize the most common malignant, premalignant and benign skin lesions, including melanoma – the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the most dangerous of the common skin cancers.
The digital device consists of a lens that can be attached to a smartphone and an app that contains this software to assess a lesion, such as a mole that begins to change its appearance or behavior.
London-based Skin Analytics said the certification is “the first step in enabling the company to open up new avenues with NHS Trusts, with the aim of further supporting the NHS with outpatient dermatology demand.”
It’s because the UK is facing some sort of crisis in the NHS as it tries to clear a backlog of cancer diagnostic procedures built up during the pandemic, while reducing access to healthcare.
Last September, a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the consulting firm Carnall Farrar (CF) suggested it could take until 2033 to close the backlog unless hospitals can significantly increase their operational capacity.
Meanwhile, rapid diagnosis has been identified as the single largest factor in cancer survival in the NHS Long-Term Plan, which aims to increase the number of cancers diagnosed in stages 1 and 2 from half to three quarters by 2028.
“The number of skin cancers in the UK doubles every 10-15 years and around 30% of dermatology positions in the NHS go unfilled,” said James Hamlyn, Skin Analytics director of quality assurance and regulation.
“Healthcare systems are not equipped to handle the volume of patients they need to see, especially in light of the backlog created by COVID. AI can bridge this gap.”