Maybe you’ve been here before: your kid has some bumps on his skin, and you’re not sure why. You’re looking at him wondering if they are bug bites, heat rash … or wait, could it possibly be scarlet fever?
You take a picture and send it to a friend. She talks you down from your scarlet fever panic, but you’re still wondering what to do. It’s not urgent enough for the hospital, but the doctor’s office is closed.
Starting this week, you can consult a new app, Aysa, that aims to help you answer questions about common skin conditions. Aysa is basically like that friend you text with pictures of your kid’s rash, except Aysa has seen 120,000 skin pictures before.
Digital skin advisor
Aysa draws on this massive medical image library to generate possible answers to your skin queries. Users take a photo of the rash or bumps and answer a series of simple questions like, does it itch, do you have a fever? Then the app lists a few possible answers and treatments. The options for treating it yourself are good and thorough. Aysa covers over 200 conditions, from eczema to shingles.
The app has a disclaimer: it does not diagnose. It may be smart technology, but it’s not a doctor. And you should always see a living, breathing medical professional if you have a serious concern.
Aysa may not be a doctor, but it is the brainchild of one. Dermatologist Dr. Art Papier has a passion for technology and its ability to help assist in diagnoses. He co-founded Visual Dx, the company that developed the app.
“As a dermatologist, I know my patients are going to Google before coming to see me. But, too often, what they find is not only inaccurate, but dangerous,” Papier said in a statement. “Our patients deserve better and Aysa can provide peace of mind to a worried parent and serve as the foundation for a productive visit to the doctor’s office.”
Research shows that 80% of internet users search for health topics online, however, 50% of the online symptom checkers are wrong. When it comes to skin conditions, the average wait time in metro areas to see a dermatologist is 32 days. Because of the clinical data and image library behind Asya, the app is able to help make more accurate and efficient. Aysa is not a diagnosis tool, rather it is a guidance tool to help in the next step decision process for consumers across the country.
Sick in the Caucasus Mountains
I had a chance to try out a beta version of Aysa this month. We had a stressful day with a sick kid on our summer travels. I was eager to see if the app would help.
My husband frequently travels overseas for work. This summer, the whole family tagged along with him this summer on a trip to the Republic of Georgia. (We’re not talking the Peach State, but the nation-state in Eurasia, on the Black Sea.) The trip was great and hard, as any big adventure with two young boys would be.
But at one point in the trip, we found ourselves in a remote mountain town with a sick kid. My 7-year-old son had bumps all over his body. I counted 50 without even asking him to roll over. We were pretty sure they were bug bites from a sub-optimal sleeping arrangement next to an open window. But then he spiked a fever, threw up, and spent the day in bed. And I got scared.
If we were home, I would have called the doctor. But we were on the other side of the planet. So I did what desperate moms do in 2018: I started wildly googling various diseases.
My Aysa Experiment
I replayed our bumpy scenario with Aysa, when I had an opportunity to test the app. I plugged in a photo of my son’s skin and answered a few questions about the bumps, their location, and the other symptoms.
Aysa gave me a list of eight possible answers: including scabies, bug bites, chicken pox, and swimmer’s itch. The possible skin conditions are listed with several photos showing what they look like on different skin types. The visual display made it easier for me to figure out what was a “no” (shingles, scabies) or a “maybe” (bug bites, swimmer’s itch) for our mystery bumps.
The app also lists information about the conditions. The simple bullet-list made it easy for me to scan information and find the useful highlights. For instance, for chicken pox, it describes the shape and size of the bumps, the blisters that usually form later, and the risk of contagion. Aysa also recommends “next steps,” like medicines or ointments that might help (and a trip to the doctor for chicken pox!).
For bug bites, the app includes really useful information like how to care for stings and a simple description of how to remove a tick.
I was feeling pretty anxious on our trip, when it was just me, a sick kid, a bottle of Russian Benadryl, and Google. Aysa helped me better survey the possibilities and feel more informed.
On our trip, we decided to give it a day and then find a doctor, if needed. After 36 hours in bed, my son woke up with a rebound as fast as his plummet. He said he was ready to hike a mountain and see a glacier. We were all grateful to put aside disease anxiety and scale new heights.
There are numerous things that can go wrong with skin in a week, day, or even minutes. If you need information about skin and fast, don’t hesitate to download Aysa.