By Susan T. Conover
4 years ago I started this company because I believed that the world would be a better place if people with skin issues could always get the care they needed at the right time. Now I’m excited to say that we’ve officially launched on the Apple app store and have our first physician users using our product to help patients everyday.
My journey in making this product began 9 years ago, when I was first diagnosed with a Stage II melanoma, and felt overwhelmed and scared. I got surgery, a PET scan, and since have gotten more than 20 biopsies, 10 moles removed, and had 3 melanomas. After that point, my dermatologists told me to keep an eye on anything changing or growing, and to come back if I saw anything out of the ordinary. I couldn’t help but feel ill equipped to identify new spots, even with their advice in looking out for the ABCDEs of melanoma.
After starting graduate school at MIT, I pitched an idea at an entrepreneurship seminar of using technology to better help identify moles, thinking maybe there’s a better way to support people on their healthcare journey, and decided to embark on the process of figuring out if it was “just me” or if there were other people like me who felt the same way. I learned so much through the process of exploring this topic, connecting with patients like me with skin issues, in addition to primary care physicians and dermatologists. After this investigation it was pretty clear where the gaps were, and how technology could help.
I learned 1 in 4 people have skin problems each year. Most of these people go to their general physician, and these doctors need to decide pretty quickly, with limited resources, what the patient likely has, and what the best next step is. A small set of these cases are escalated to a dermatologist as the wait times can be 3–4 months long. In my case, my general physician didn’t want me to have to wait to see a dermatologist, so he biopsied my mole directly.
I soon learned that healthcare is practiced in “snapshots”. A doctor quickly gathers all of the information they can about a case and makes a decision on what to do next.
Our Piction Health app for doctors is designed to fit into their workflow and save them time in the exam. They’re already responsible for dealing with a patient’s multiple health issues in a 10–15 minute visit. We aimed in building this product to empower them to have a second set of trained “eyes” on the case, from our AI built on a database of hundreds of thousands of cases. This way these physicians don’t have to rely on Google image searching, flipping through old textbooks, or waiting for a text back from a colleague to make the best decision they can for that patient.
How we got to this point of launching our app was through the collaboration of hundreds of individuals in multiple communities. We have many people to thank for getting to this stage! This includes all of the front-line providers and dermatologists in the US and around the world who have contributed to the development of the app and our image collection to make sure our product works well, the MIT community, the National Science Foundation, MassChallenge, Techstars, Singapore University of Technology and Design, our amazing seed investors, and many other founders, investors, mentors, advisors, family, and friends.
Some of the biggest challenges we’ve faced have been around accessing the relevant skin cases, learning the most relevant regulatory information for us, and learning how we can make a sustaining and growing business model, so we can continue to re-invest and bring this technology globally.
We’re excited to welcome our first physician users to our community, and honored to be able to scale our product to helping so many people in the US and around the world.
If you are a physician interested in using the app, please download it from the App Store here.