Stanford dermatology resident and founder of Medable, Dr. Michelle Longmire, took the stage at the USC Body Computing Conference to demonstrate Dermtap. Dermtap is a fully HIPAA-compliant mobile app for secure and safe image storing and sharing. With Dermtap, Dr. Longmire’s primary goal is to make “digital doctoring” a reality, enabling digital communication between patients and providers.
Currently, many physicians take photos of interesting pathology for sharing and teaching, but this practice creates a complex situation when it comes to patient privacy and intermingles medical and recreational photos. That’s where Dermtap comes in.
With Dermtap, a dermatologist can snap photos of interesting pathology and store these photos within the app’s servers, completely independent of your personal library.
Each case can have up to 5 photos, and each photo can be anonymized by covering up eyes or identifying features. With every photo, you can then share access to established teams (your group practice, for example), specific colleagues, or to any contact in your phone’s address book.
Other physicians that have been invited to access your case can contribute comments, or suggest diagnoses. The app intelligently provides a list of proposed diagnoses at the top of the comments with the ability for participants to vote for each diagnosis via a “like” button. One of my favorite features of the app is the fact that typing a diagnosis within the comment box’s free text instantly brings up an auto-fill list of diagnoses. This simplifies spelling (which can be a problem with many dermatological conditions) and also helps update the list of proposed diagnoses. A simple and effective way to best understand the app is to watch the brief video located on their website.
As one would expect, patient privacy and security is a continual theme addressed effectively throughout the application. In order to successfully register as a provider, you must produce a valid NPI number. Furthermore, as mentioned above, every photo uploaded can be de-identified via censoring. Also, after a certain amount of inactivity, the app requires a password, preventing others from accessing your patient’s photos.
When signing up for the Dermtap service, there is a separate process for registration as a patient and as a provider. In the public beta version currently available on the app store, the registration process for patients is still restricted to an invite-only basis. Dr. Longmire explained to me that they plan to roll out the patient portion of the service in its next phase, which will facilitate patient-provider communication and sharing of photos.
With my brief time using the app, I have been thoroughly impressed with the simple and clean user interface. The bright colors and flat design fit right in with the recently introduced iOS 7. The app flows smoothly, and does not appear to “jump” around and does not have any noticeable lag, which commonly occurs with apps that heavily rely on the cloud. The ability to view multiple (up to 5) images within one case is also quite useful, as it provides additional perspectives on the progression of a disease, which is crucial for an accurate diagnosis.
Most exciting of all, this clean and highly functional user interface is based on the Medable platform, which Dr. Longmire created as a tool to help other medical professionals make their app ideas a reality. The Medable platform is fully HIPAA compliant, features care collaboration between patients and providers, and supports image storing/sharing. For those of us who might not be dermatologists, her vision is that Medable can be the backbone for other mobile apps tailored for other needs or specialties. Dermtap shows us that digital doctoring for dermatologists is already here, and its Medable backbone promises that digital doctoring for the rest of us is not far behind.
This article is part of iMedicalApps’ coverage of the 7th annual Body Computing Conference, hosted by the USC Body Computing Center, which took place on October 4th, 2013. The event showcases the cutting edge of digital health, in partnership with industry leaders and venture capitalists in biotechnology, telecommunications, entertainment, and design.