Diagnosis of dermatological diseases is a skill that demands near-encyclopedic knowledge of the morphological and regional characteristics of numerous diseases.
It is easy to witness the speed with which many dermatologists diagnosis skin pathology and mistake the specialty for also being easy and undemanding.
On the contrary, I believe the fact that dermatologists can perform their work with such efficiency is a testament to the amount of training they have undergone to develop their highly-attuned sense of pattern recognition. But what are the rest of us without years of residency training to do when faced with unfamiliar skin pathology and forced to make rash decisions? (pun credited to Dr. Andrew Lin)
There have been apps released in the past that cover dermatology using the atlas strategy. These apps list multiple diseases, with photos and descriptions of each. While the previously reviewed Pocket Derm wasn’t particularly robust, the more recently reviewed DermAtlas contained many more photos of many more diseases. While atlases like these would be useful if one was asked by a preceptor or colleague about a particular disease, the reality in the clinic is that patients present with signs and symptoms, not tattooed disease labels.
The challenge is to go the other way, from signs and symptoms to a diagnosis, and for this particular function, atlases are not particularly useful.
DermoMap aims to fill this void by providing innovative functionality that can help clinicians go from symptoms to diagnosis. Differentiating features of the app include the ability to specify the characteristics of a lesion and view a list of differential diagnoses that fit the description, and the ability to photograph a lesion to compare with pre-existing photos in the app database.
DermoMap is a very slick looking app that is beautifully presented. It contains a “search” section which functions as the atlas portion of the app. All 116 dermatological pathologies are listed here alphabetically, with the option to search. Each disease entry contains one or multiple photographs along with a brief explanation, encompassing an overall description, common symptoms, the diagnosis, and treatment of the disease.
These explanations are fairly short and to the point, ideal for quick overviews, but not in any way an adequate substitute for more robust textbooks on the subject.
The “diagnose” section is the meat of the app. One can select from multiple parameters including location, time of evolution, symptoms and others, with the app listing a differential diagnosis of skin conditions that may fit the criteria. This section and the accompanying 3D model look very nice, but selecting the location of the lesion can be a bit cumbersome, having to navigate through multiple steps to do so.
Deselecting an area can be equally cumbersome, and though it may only take a few extra seconds, it still detracts from the overall user experience.
The “compare” section allows one to select an image from the app for comparison with a photo from one’s photo albums or camera. While I do not have an original iPad to test this on, it is fairly intuitive that the camera function will only work on the iPhone and iPad 2.
Lastly, there is a “practice” section that offers quizzes of varying length and time. I found it a nice way to quickly test myself on material. There is a review section upon completing the quiz, with answers clearly explained.
DermoMap is a nice paradigm shift in dermatology apps. While previous apps were more focused on functioning as atlases or digital textbooks, DermoMap makes an attempt to assist learners and non-dermatologists in their clinical practice. While the app is beautiful and makes a very good step toward becoming a helpful diagnostic tool, there are still improvements that could be made.
The location selection feature is aesthetically pleasing but cumbersome, and the extra taps it takes to select or deselect a region can become irritating, especially in a high stress clinical environment. I would’ve liked an option to simplify the diagnosis section into simply lists of words that one can quickly select and view the diseases that fit the criteria. The app could also be beefed up by adding additional pathology, as the current selection of 116 diseases does not cover the full range of possible diseases one may encounter.
Lastly, I did encounter some low memory issues on my iPad 2, and was asked to close other apps in order to run DermoMap.
Overall, DermoMap is a slick app that has functionality above merely acting as references or atlases. The iPhone version at $5.99 has identical features to the iPad HD version at $7.99. Taking into account the iPad 2’s greater screen size, its superior battery life, and the fact that I carry my iPad 2 in my white coat pocket on the wards, I prefer using it over the iPhone version.
But beware if you are using the iPad 1; the photography function will not work, though this is by no means a deal breaker as it is a relatively minor function.
- Beautiful presentation and photographs
- Innovative tool that aids in diagnosis of skin pathology
- Ability to compare one’s photographs with photos in the app
- Number of skin diseases could be increased
- Cumbersome to navigate the diagnosis section
- A few low memory issues cause the app to occasionally crash
- $5.99 (iPhone version)
- $7.99 (iPad HD version)
- DermoMap is an innovative attempt at bringing point-of-care diagnostic functionality to dermatology apps
- It would excel even further with increases in the number of diseases covered