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June 2013

Medical Application Use and the Need for Further Research and Assessment for Clinical Practice: Creation and Integration of Standards for Best Practice to Alleviate Poor Application Design

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Internal Medicine, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland (Dr Misra); Medical Teaching Centre, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, England (Mr Lewis); and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, Worcester (Dr Aungst).

JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(6):661-662. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.606

Since the launch of the modern smartphone, medical applications have become ubiquitous in both clinical practice and education. Despite the lack of a formal evidence base, many see mobile technology as being an integral part of future health care. A recent study by Wolf et al1 assessing the efficacy of commercially available smartphone applications designed to assess melanoma risk of suspicious skin lesions highlights this dilemma. Their findings of sensitivities and specificities ranging from 6.8% to 98.1% and 30.4% to 93.7%, respectively, illustrate the existing variability in applications currently available to patients and clinicians. We applaud the authors for their investigation into the accuracy of these applications as the prevalence and usage of mobile devices in clinical practice is extremely high despite the lack of formal US Food and Drug Administration regulation.2 However, their findings are not isolated. For example, Abroms et al3 have shown similar findings in the content of applications designed for smoking cessation. In addition, in an unprecedented action, the Federal Trade Commission brought civil charges against the developers of 2 applications that claimed to treat severe acne using light generated via the screen of a smartphone.4

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