As technology continues to advance, so too does its accessibility to the general population. In 2013, 56% of Americans owned a smartphone versus 77% in 2017.1With the increase in mobile applications (apps) available, it is no surprise that the market has extended into the medical field, with dermatology being no exception.2 The majority of dermatology apps can be classified as teledermatology apps, followed by self-surveillance, disease guide, and reference apps. Additional types of dermatology apps include dermoscopy, conference, education, photograph storage and sharing, and journal apps, and others.2 In this study, we examined Apple App Store rankings to determine the types of dermatology apps that are most popular among patients and physicians.
A popular app rankings analyzer (App Annie) was used to search for dermatology apps along with their App Store rankings.3 Although iOS is not the most popular mobile device operating system, we chose to evaluate app rankings via the App Store because iPhones are the top-selling individual phones of any kind in the United States.4
We performed our analysis on a single day (July 14, 2018) given that app rankings can change daily. We incorporated the following keywords, which were commonly used in other dermatology app studies: dermatology, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, skin cancer, melanoma, eczema, and teledermatology. The category ranking was defined as the rank of a free or paid app in the App Store’s top charts for the selected country (United States), market (Apple), and device (iPhone) within their app category (Medical). Inclusion criteria required a ranking in the top 1500 Medical apps and being categorized in the App Store as a Medical app. Exclusion criteria included apps that focused on cosmetics, private practice, direct advertisements, photograph editing, or claims to cure skin disease, as well as non–English-language apps. The App Store descriptions were assessed to determine the type of each app (eg, teledermatology, disease guide) and target audience (patient, physician, or both).
Another search was performed using the same keywords but within the Health and Fitness category to capture potentially more highly ranked apps among patients. We also conducted separate searches within the Medical category using the keywords billing, coding, and ICD (International Classification of Diseases) to evaluate rankings for billing/coding apps, as well as EMR and electronic medical records for electronic medical record (EMR) apps.
The initial search yielded 851 results, which was narrowed down to 29 apps after applying the exclusion criteria. Of note, prior to application of the exclusion criteria, one dermatology app that was considered to be a direct advertisement app claiming to cure acne was ranked fourth of 1500 apps in the Medical category. However, the majority of the search results were excluded because they were not popular enough to be ranked among the top 1500 apps. There were more ranked dermatology apps in the Medical category targeting patients than physicians; 18 of 29 (62%) qualifying apps targeted patients and 11 (38%) targeted physicians (Tables 1 and 2). No apps targeted both groups. The most common type of ranked app targeting patients was self-surveillance (11/18), and the most common type targeting physicians was reference (8/11). The highest ranked app targeting patients was a teledermatology app with a ranking of 184, and the highest ranked app targeting physicians was educational, ranked 353. The least common type of ranked apps targeting patients were “other” (2/18 [11%]; 1 prescription and 1 UV monitor app) and conference (1/18 [6%]). The least common type of ranked apps targeting physicians were education (2/11 [18%]) and dermoscopy (1/11 [9%]).
Our search of the Health and Fitness category yielded 6 apps, all targeting patients; 3 (50%) were self-surveillance apps, and 3 (50%) were classified as other (2 UV monitors and a conferencing app for cancer emotional support)(Table 3).
Our search of the Medical category for billing/coding and EMR apps yielded 232 and 164 apps, respectively; of them, 49 (21%) and 54 (33%) apps were ranked. These apps did not overlap with the dermatology-related search criteria; thus, we were not able to ascertain how many of these apps were used specifically by health care providers in dermatology.