Consumers and physicians should be wary of relying on mobile dermatology applications for medical diagnosis and treatment, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology, Reuters reports.
The study comes one week after FDA issued final guidance for mobile health apps (Pittman, Reuters, 9/26).
Background on FDA Guidance
According to the final guidance released on Sept. 23, FDA will focus oversight on apps that:
- Were developed to be used as accessories to regulated medical devices, such as apps that allow health care providers to make diagnoses by viewing medical images on smartphones or tablets; or
- Can transform mobile devices into regulated medical devices, such as apps that allow a smartphone to be used as an electrocardiography machine (iHealthBeat, 9/23).
Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine searched five online app stores for dermatology-related apps.
The researchers found 209 apps, including:
- 10 that had a minimum of 35 reviews; and
- Eight that connected patients in remote areas to dermatologists.
The most frequently reviewed apps for the general public were:
- iSore, a directory of skin conditions;
- SPF, an app that calculates the time a user can be in the sun based on UV index and skin type;
- SpotMole, an app designed to inspect pictures of moles for signs of cancer; and
- Ultraviolet ~ UV Index, an app that shows the UV index for the user's current location.
About half of the apps were available at no-cost, with the rest averaging $2.99 each.
Researchers noted that few of the apps were developed by medical professionals.
Robert Dellavalle -- lead author of the study and a dermatologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine -- called the industry of dermatology-related mobile apps a "buyer-beware atmosphere."
He recommended consumers cross-reference information from such apps with other resources or a dermatologist (Reuters, 9/26).