Is the $120 billion global skincare industry next in line to be transformed by the blockchain? Leading skincare specialist, Dr Anna Karp, is seeing this happen already in her work with Opu Labs – a blockchain startup dedicated to evolving the way skincare intelligence is shared.
Blockchain and dermatology for better skincare
Like so many other sectors, skincare isn’t immune to the charms of the blockchain. In fact, it’s one of those rare industries where there’s no real precedent set for data security – since for the most part there hasn’t been a universally accessible way of collating and sharing patient information.
Despite what many may think, blockchain and skincare aren’t mutually exclusive. In many parts of the world patients don’t have access to a dermatologist. The only information available to them is often marketing from skincare brands or limited advice from people they know. That’s why we dermatologists are continually looking for ways to expand their reach and use their capabilities in more scalable ways.
Skincare is no stranger to technology. The need for more accurate diagnoses, compounded by the growth of AI and telemedicine are creating a fertile proving ground for new software and hardware.
Inside clinics there are many high-end devices – such as lasers, ultrasound tightening devices, and microneedling equipment. And procedures can be expensive. In order to use the equipment to best effect we first need to make an assessment; which often means repeat clinic visits for patients.
Training AI To Diagnose Skin Conditions
While general telemedicine platforms provide data for scheduling, prescribing, and messaging, there’s definite need for more advanced diagnostic tools. This is exactly why Opu Labs was set up. We’re building a series of technology platforms on the Ethereum blockchain – including an AI powered skincare mobile app, which uses machine learning to improve diagnosis quality.
My role involves training Opu’s AI technology to recognize different skin issues – such as hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and redness – and make treatment recommendations. We’re currently looking at images uploaded by users and highlighting various skin conditions. As more users upload their facial scans, the AI technology will incrementally improve. But that relies on us getting the data needed.
Creating A Value-Driven Ecosystem
While the use of AI alone doesn’t require the use of blockchain technology, Opu’s use of Ethereum’s smart contract functionality allows the secure exchange of patient data. In order to incentivize users and stimulate broader usage of its platforms, Opu has created its own value driven ecosystem; underpinned by an Ethereum-backed ERC-223 crypto token – OPU Coin, which will be the primary transaction unit across Opu’s platforms. While some 600 million OPU coins will soon be available during Opu’s upcoming ICO (in July 2018), patients will also be able to ‘earn’ OPU coins for a range of other activities; including taking part in clinical trials, product testing, and recruiting new community members.
Skincare is highly commercialized. The demand for data related to the efficacy of skincare products is significant. Consumers are always looking better skincare solutions, so there is, I believe, great potential value for a smart rewards system that runs on top of a trustworthy data bank.
Technology Will Complement, Not Replace, Dermatologists
Working alongside a strong medical team, led by Opu’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Dhaval Bhanusali, I’m confident Opu has what it takes to get skincare right on a global scale. We have an outstanding board of advisors and an expert team of dermatologists who are helping us train the AI. Also a number of clinics and doctors around the world have expressed a keen interest in using the platform.
However, despite the leaps and bounds being made, technology won’t replace dermatologists; it’ll enhance our capabilities in many respects. Better and more accurate data means faster diagnosis, bespoke treatment plans, and improved results, which will be hugely beneficial to both patients and dermatologists.
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Dr. Anna Karp is a leading dermatologist at The Skin Institute of New York. She previously worked at St John’s Episcopal Hospital where she was chief resident of dermatology, and continues to to work at an assistant professor at NYU Langone Health.