Using AI to Diagnose STIs

STAT wrote about a relatively new AI program that claims to diagnose STIs based on photos. While the need for increased access to STI testing has been documented (see my previous post about the new at-home test here), skeptics remain concerned about the program.

Firstly, since it diagnoses a medical condition, it is likely a device under federal law. However, the web site reads that "all info provided by HeHealth is for informative purposes only. Please do not take it as an official diagnosis and should not be considered medical advice," and "The HeHealth application, products, and services are intended only for the purpose of promoting and supporting general wellness and a healthy lifestyle and are not to be used to diagnose, cure, treat, manage, or prevent any disease or condition."

Which then, begs the question of the utility of the product. If it's not a tool for diagnosis, what is it?

Secondly, as the experts interviewed noted, many STIs do not have visual symptoms, which means that a negative result from this test may not be clinically useful.

Thirdly, the company claims to comply with HIPAA (“We are HIPAA compliant through our AWS environment”), but if this is a service that does not bill insurance and it does not diagnose people, it's unlikely to be a covered entity subject to HIPAA. So it is unclear if the company complies with HIPAA by being exempt or if it follows the requirements of HIPAA on covered entities. The privacy policy is explicit that the company shares users data with others, “[t]o enable you to get the Service you need, the main sharing of User’s information is with Professionals (doctors). We also share some types of Users’ information with service providers and partners who assist us in operating the services. For example, with our service providers and partners. We use vendors to help us distribute, market, and improve our services, such as data hosting and maintenance, analytics, marketing, advertising, payment processing, and security operations.”

More ways to diagnose (and treat) STIs is a great thing. I hope AI becomes a tool that can help us do that, but I’m not sure this is it, yet.