Direct to Consumer Mobile Teledermatology Apps: An Exploratory Study

Telemed J E Health. 2016 Aug;22(8):689-93. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2015.0189. Epub 2016 Mar 9.


Background: Since 2012, "Direct to Consumer" mobile teledermatology apps have become more available, relinquishing many data collection tasks normally done by healthcare professionals directly to patients.

Introduction: To determine user friendliness, diagnostic quality, and service of commercially available mobile teledermatology apps.

Materials and methods: All mobile teledermatology apps available at the Apple App Store were reviewed. The two most popular mobile teledermatology apps were identified and tested together with three apps having similar functionality using a single case of a patient who was also examined by a dermatologist in-person.

Results: Apps varied in diagnostic scope, data gathering methods, services, rendered results, and in geographic coverage and cost.

Discussion: None of the apps take a history as thoroughly as recommended by textbooks. Key medical questions like current medications and allergies are not asked often. Most apps rendered concordant results, except for the one having the least thorough history taking.

Conclusions: Mobile teledermatology application interfaces, services, and cost vary, with some risking medical errors and possible distribution of continuity of care. The American Telemedicine Association's guidelines for teledermatology need to address the use of direct to consumer apps. To protect consumers, app regulation, certification, or guidelines suggesting appropriate development and use might be considered.

Keywords: dermatology; m-health; technology; teledermatology; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Dermatology / economics
  • Dermatology / organization & administration*
  • Dermatology / standards
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Telemedicine / economics
  • Telemedicine / organization & administration*
  • Telemedicine / standards