Over the weekend I had a chance to test out “First Derm”, a new service for online dermatology.

My boy has had some major medical issues in his life, and as such we tend to helicopter parent a bit.  So, when my wife found a strange mole we decided to get a medical opinion.  I searched for “dermatology” in the app store and quickly downloaded the app at zero cost.

Once openIMG_1184ed, the app starts on a screen titled “Overview photo”.  You are prompted to hold the phone approximately 12 inches from the affected area and take a snap.  You can then retake, or confirm the photo and move to the “Close-up photo” screen and take another photo at around 2 inches away from the site.

It is possible to control the flash, and while “working” with a wiggling eight year old I had the opportunity to take many different photos before I arrived at a satisfactory outcome.  Please note, First Derm is very clear about your part of the deal – the quality of the diagnosis is directly dependent on the quality of the photo.  Don’t expect good results if you can’t take the time to get a good image.

When you get to the case details screen you have the opportunity to select gender, age, city, country and duration/type of symptoms.   Again, the specificity of your historical data will affect the diagnosis.  Be really clear!

The last screen in the sequence is a simple review of both photos, the data you entered and an “agree to TOCs” button.  You hit “submit case”, and are charged through the app store.  Three tiers are offered – $99 gets you 8hr response, $39.99 gets a 24 hr response, and $24.99 gets you a 48 hour response.

Two days later I checked the app and found a response as promised!  Not too shabby.

IMG_7785So, what does the response look like?  Well, I’ve incorporated our report so you can see for yourself.  It’s pretty pedestrian, but that’s not unexpected.

While First Derm doesn’t provide medical diagnoses, the vendor claims 70% of cases are as good as seeing a Dr, and when differential diagnosis is included the rate reaches as high as 90%.

Some other nice features are included in the app, in particular a skin guide, an FAQ and a quick clinic locator.

So, is the service useful?  In our case, as hovering parents, sure!  For a patient who thinks they may have basal cell carcinoma and needs a quick opinion of whether to see a Dr, absolutely!  While the service is not diagnostic it is certainly a great way to get some decision making support that might encourage you to seek further medical counseling (or not).

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