Given that we've sent a car to space, it probably isn't unthinkable that we can now diagnose STDs through images. In fact, HeHealth, the world's first penis-focused, AI-enabled tool, not only allows users to get instant diagnoses of STDs through images they upload, but also other types of rare penile conditions such as penile cancer. And all for free.
Only diagnoses STDs that show physical symptoms
As of now, the app can only diagnose STDs that show physical symptoms.
"Most visually recognisable STDs have very distinct patterns and symptoms, and in cases where a user has a rash that looks generic, our diagnosis will indicate low accuracy of the results. In this instance, we will advise them to get tested for possible STDs," says Yudara Kularathne, the co-founder and CEO of HeHealth.
He adds that the team is working on improving their AI model to predict the possibility of STDs without physical symptoms through an assessment of a patient's recent activities and medical history.
"This would be similar to how a doctor diagnoses STDs in clinics, which is by asking patients about their recent sexual encounters."
Having operated live testing for 18 months before its official launch in April, the app has run over 1,000 AI analyses and the results have been verified by doctors. Thus far, it has outperformed primary care physicians in some challenging cases and has an accuracy rate of 90 percent for HPV screening.
In the event of a positive result, it will advise the user to get tested physically and seek treatment. And if there's a negative result, it will still recommend that they get tested if they feels unwell.
The company also prioritises anonymity: it does not collect any personal information and advises users to refrain from using real names or main email addresses on their accounts.
Telemedicine, testing and treatment available in the future
How is the model sustainable when screening is free? Kularathne explains that right now, their priority is raising awareness on STD screening.
"We recognise that there are still a few hurdles to overcome when it comes to STD screening. For one, there is a lot of irrelevant and false information online on STDs, and when people turn to crowd diagnosis, this often leads to more panic, confusion and inaccurate diagnoses," he says.
"Many people also feel uncomfortable talking about these things with friends and family, which leads to them feeling like they’re battling this alone. And then there is the fear of stigma, which stops them from making an appointment to get tested."
There are however plans for the company to "pivot to a more profitable business model in the future", where there will be a service fee after the complimentary STD screening for telemedicine, testing and treatment to be arranged through the app.
A collaboration between SMU and NUS
The app is part of the SMU BIG Incubator programme and is working with the National University Singapore research committee to conduct research to help improve the accuracy and further develop the AI of the platform. It is currently awaiting approvals from the Health Science Authority in Singapore and NUS to commence their second stage of clinical trials.
"Getting approval from HSA and NUS will allow us to work towards getting FDA approval, which is considered a gold standard in the MedTech innovation industry. An FDA clearance will allow us to scale our work globally and impact more people all around the world," Kularathne says.
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 1 million STDs are acquired every day. These conditions can result in infertility, cancer, increased risk of HIV acquisition and many other health consequences if the infections are left untreated.
Want to give it a go? HeHealth is available on both Google and Apple stores.