Using a smartphone with an application to send photographs to a dermatologist could improve the early detection of melanoma, according to a study published April 11 in Journal of Medical Internet Research.
The identification and early diagnosis improves outcomes and decreases mortality. In this study, researchers evaluated other published work on the feasibility of teledermatology and a smartphone app to improve the diagnosis.
“Many countries have tested the use of telemedicine in dermatology as a way to increase access to health care services when distance is a critical factor,” wrote first author Cedric Rat, MD, PhD, and colleagues. “Telemedicine in dermatology can be based either on videoconferences or on store-and-forward teledermatology procedures. Videoconferences, which allow a patient and a dermatologist to be connected for a consultation, are time-consuming for the dermatologist and may require an expensive setup. Store-and-forward teledermatology procedures are based on sending information and photographs to a dermatologist for a deferred medical opinion.”
Researchers included 25 studies, collected from PubMed, for evaluation. Of the selected studies, 13 focused on teledermatology and 12 analyzed automated smartphone apps. Results showed teledermatology was able to reduce the course of care from 80 to 10 days or less. However, the conclusions made using teledermatology and those made in an in-person visits depended on the study. Results for smartphone apps showed concerns about sensitivity and lacking clinical practice conditions.
“The use of store-and-forward teledermatology could improve access to a dermatology consultation by optimizing the care course,” concluded Rat and colleagues. “Our review confirmed the absence of evidence of the safety and efficacy of smartphone medical apps. In contrast, our review found evidence that store-and-forward teledermatology using smartphones may affect patients’ care courses, delays in obtaining a dermatologist consultation, and patients’ referral to secondary care. Further research is required to determine the quality criteria, as there was major variability among the studies.”