Mobile app effective in increasing skin self-examination rates

August 5, 2018


Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of a mobile application (app) in patients already using total body photography (TBP) to increase skin self-examination (SSE) rates and pilot the effectiveness of examination reminders and accountability partners.

Design: Randomized controlled trial with computer generated randomization table to allocate interventions.

Setting: University of Pennsylvania pigmented lesion clinic.

Participants: 69 patients aged 18 years or older with an iPhone/iPad, who were already in possession of TBP photographs.

Intervention: A mobile app loaded with digital TBP photos for all participants, and either (1) the mobile app only, (2) skin examination reminders, (3) an accountability partner, or (4) reminders and an accountability partner.

Main Outcome Measure: Change in SSE rates as assessed by enrollment and end-of-study surveys 6 months later.

Results: Eighty one patients completed informed consent, however 12 patients did not complete trial enrollment procedures due to device incompatibility, leaving 69 patients who were randomized and analyzed [mean age 54.3 years, standard deviation 13.9). SSE rates increased significantly from 58% at baseline to 83% at 6 months (odds ratio 2.64, 95% confidence interval 1.20–4.09), with no difference among the intervention groups. The group with examination reminders alone had the highest (94%) overall satisfaction, and the group with accountability partners alone accounted for the lowest (71%).

Conclusion: A mobile app alone, or with reminders and/or accountability partners, was found to be an effective tool that can help to increase SSE rates. Skin examination reminders may help provide a better overall experience for a subset of patients.


Marek, A. J., Chu, E. Y., Ming, M. E., Khan, Z. A., & Kovarik, C. L. (2018). Piloting the Use of Smartphones, Reminders, and Accountability Partners to Promote Skin Self-Examinations in Patients with Total Body Photography: A Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. doi:10.1007/s40257-018-0372-7

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