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 opened, 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.
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).