All Apps Aren’t Created Equal
There are tens of thousands of medical apps available on the market right now. Developers are busy innovating health care as we’ve come to know it, trying to solve health issues in real time, where patients are. The result – at least in the field of online dermatology – is hundreds of apps that may appear similar on the consumer-side, but that work in different ways.
There are at least three different kinds of dermatology apps on the market: (a) self-help apps in which you search through rash pictures for one that looks like yours; (b) automated algorithmic apps in which users photograph their skin issues with smartphones, and receive computer-generated diagnoses (rather than from board-certified dermatologists); and (c) an app that sends user-generated photographs of skin issues directly to board-certified dermatologists who reply with a diagnosis or recommendations for next steps. Scientific studies indicate that the third option, which uses smartphones to take and send images to certified dermatologists, provides the most accurate triaging of patients.
Which App Is More Accurate?
Experts assess teledermatology apps by their sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity – also called the true positive rate – is the proportion of conditions the app correctly identifies. Specificity – or the true negative rate – is a measure of the app’s ability to identify when a user does not have an illness. When we look at an app’s ability to detect melanoma, a high sensitivity rate means that it detects moles or growths that look like melanomas most of the time. A low sensitivity rate means the app isn’t able to detect melanoma well. A high specificity rate indicates that the app effectively rules out melanoma in some cases. An app with a lower sensitivity rate identifies more skin issues as possible skin cancers. When it comes to mHealth – that is, health information without direct doctor-patient relationships – the apps with high sensitivity and specificity are best.
First Derm Won’t Replace Your Physician – And Doesn’t Want To
First Derm values doctors and believes that no current technology should replace in-person exams. Instead, First Derm helps to effectively triage skin issues by sending images to dermatologists. First Derm dermatologists review cases and recommend next steps that users can take to relieve their symptoms. In about 70% of cases submitted to First Derm, users receive information about self-treatment with over-the-counter medications, and the recommendation that they see a doctor if the issue does not improve in a week or worsens. In the other 30% of cases, patients were instructed to see their physician for further testing, diagnosis, and treatment, as it is not always easy to see from a photograph if the skin issue is particularly concerning. Approximately 15% of those cases referred to physicians result in prescription medications. The remaining cases tend to be possible cancers, which need to be ruled out in person.
How Much Is Peace of Mind Worth?
Why should you choose First Derm as your teledermatology app with so many competitors out there?
- First Derm sends your skin images to a board-certified dermatologist. There are no automated algorithms. In fact, by using dermatologists rather than computers, First Derm is able to identify possible skin cancers that aren’t pigmented. Computer-based algorithms would miss these.
- First Derm isn’t just about skin cancers; in fact, the majority of cases First Derm receives are about rashes and other skin-related issues.
- Dermatologists are better than non-expert physicians at identifying skin issues, according to a study in the Archives of Dermatology.
- First Derm keeps health information seeking safe. In a world in which companies are selling data to the highest bidder, anonymity is valuable. First Derm won’t sell your data, and there’s no risk of identity theft because there are NO identifiers.
- Twenty percent of First Derm cases are audited on a monthly basis to ensure high standards.
- First Derm gets you results in less than 24 hours, while our competitors that use dermatologists can take up to 3 days.
- First Derm’s average sensitivity and specificity rates are high. Our dermatologists refer anything that looks suspicious, but will also save unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office.
- First Derm has proven efficacy in terms of triaging patients, keeping patients with typical conditions at work or with their families rather than at a doctor’s office. This frees in-person dermatologists up to see the patients with potentially severe conditions faster.
- First Derm gives back to the community. First Derm works tirelessly to promote healthy skin habits, to teach parents how to care for and prevent their children’s rashes, and raise skin cancer awareness. By following our blog or joining our Facebook or Twitter communities, you’ll become a part of valuable dermatologic conversations that directly impact consumers.
- First Derm is significantly less expensive than our closest competitors. Each case costs $39.99 – about the cost of a copay for a non-specialist. Our competitors cost from $50-$130/case.
- Additionally, First Derm can save you valuable time and money. You don’t have to endure the hassle of making an appointment with your internist, waiting several weeks to be seen, taking time away from work, driving to the appointment, and waiting for the doctor to see you – only then to be referred to a specialist.