Singapore healthcare mobile app taps AI to diagnose STD

Touted to offer a "penis-checking" tool powered by artificial intelligence, the HeHealth mobile app has processed 1,000 image analyses over an 18 months-long pilot and lets users receive their results anonymously.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Men who suspect they may have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but are coy about visiting a clinic for a diagnose can now  do so via a mobile app. A Singapore healthcare platform lets users send in digital images to be analysed and receive their results anonymously. 

The HeHealth app was launched Wednesday, offering a "penis-checking" tool powered by a customised convolutional neural network (CNN) artificial intelligence (AI) model. Touted to detect an STD "almost instantly" via a digital image, HeHealth said its platform also could detect other types of penile conditions such as penile cancer. 

The mobile app focuses on penis health and has been running as a pilot over 18 months, through to its official launch on Google and Apple appstores in April 2022. As of July 2022, HeHealth has processed more than 1,000 image analyses--with results verified by doctors--since its launch.

Initial results indicated an accuracy rate of 90% for HPV (human papillomavirus) detection, said HeHealth, adding that it did not collect any personal user data. Its users also were urged not to use their real names or main email addresses on their account, as part of security measures the platform recommended.

Noting that the app aimed to ease access to STD screening, HeHealth Its co-founder and CEO Yudara Kularathne said: "Not just in Singapore but in most countries, STD is heavily associated with stigma. This stigma often turns STD patients to more discreet forms of diagnosis like crowd diagnosis, which is often inaccurate and unreliable. 

"We hope to normalise STD screening amongst the community in Singapore. Focusing on penis-related STD is the first step that HeHealth is taking towards doing this," Kularathne said.

Part of the SMU Big incubator initiative, HeHealth currently is working with National University of Singapore (NUS) to conduct research on improving the accuracy and further the development of the mobile platform's AI capabilities. It also is waiting for approvals from industry regulator Health Science Authority and NUS to kick off stage two of clinical trials, during which HeHealth's biomedical research to validate the science behind its platform will be reviewed and monitored. 

HeHealth also announced plans to introduce a telehealth service later this year that would cover "all facets" of the healthcare journey that spanned screen, consultation, testing, and treatment. 

The mobile app currently can be downloaded for free. 

Singapore last November unveiled a three-year partnership between SingHealth and SGInnovate that aimed to steer more concerted efforts towards the use of AI in healthcare. The collaboration would offer resources and opportunities that deep tech startups needed to develop AI applications to enhance healthcare services. 


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