In the latest paper published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, investigators have revealed that Smartphone Apps that claim to diagnose cancer using photos of lesions on the skin are inaccurate. The Apps claiming these diagnoses are not just inaccurate but also dangerous. The study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine by Dr. Laura Ferris and her colleagues. According to them relying on these spurious apps has resulted in loss of time in consulting the physician and also delay in the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.
Smartphone Apps for Healthcare
With the increased usage and reliance on Smartphone Apps for everything, healthcare apps have become instant with the mobile users. These tools could be used to the extent of keeping informed about the prevalence of various conditions and the physician directories and the like. But as far as using apps for diagnosing and treating a disease are concerned, they should be strictly avoided.
The study consisted of analyzing four popular smart phone apps that run on two platforms, and their efficacy in the diagnosis of melanoma and its treatment. The apps use digital images of the skin lesions for the diagnosis of melanoma and detecting if they are benign or malignant. For the study, the researchers uploaded 188 digital images of various skin lesions whose diagnosis was already established in the laboratory.
Results from the Study
The apps analyzed the images using automated algorithms and were reviewed by dermatologists certified from anonymous boards. These applications were not even subjected to any regulatory validation. Among the apps that were reviewed, only one turned out to be good for use. It is a type of telemedicine that provides high sensitivity in diagnosis. Only one out of 53 melanomas was reported as benign by experts who read the images. Also all the others were very cheap or even free apps whereas this one was priced at $5 per evaluation.
Though the cheap and free apps provide disclaimers, the likelihood of the users relying on their evaluation is high resulting in not hurrying up for an appointment with the physician. Dr. Ferris was quoted as saying “Technologies that decrease the mortality rate by improving self- and early-detection of melanomas would be a welcome addition to dermatology. But we have to make sure patients aren’t being harmed by tools that deliver inaccurate results.”