By Sharon Atieno

A mobile application has been developed to support peripheral health workers to diagnose and manage skin diseases.

SkinApp, a product of the NLR International, is a simple tool used to recognize the early signs and symptoms of skin diseases, to enable immediate treatment, referral for more advanced diagnostic testing or advice on disease management.

“The reason to develop SkinApp started from the fact that health workers had difficulty diagnosing leprosy so we thought that by enabling them to diagnose skin diseases they would also learn to recognize signs and symptoms of leprosy,” said Liesbeth Mieras, Head Medical Technical Department, NLR International during the first International Conference on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Africa held in Nairobi, Kenya.

Skin disease is the fourth leading cause of global non-fatal disease burden, by enabling timely diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases especially NTDs that manifest with skin lesions, such as leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, SkinApp contributes to the prevention of disabilities as well as psychological and socio-economic problems.

Skin NTDs are not the most prevalent skin diseases and are therefore, more likely to be missed by health workers with limited or no dermatology training.

The app was developed in 2015 and first tested in Mozambique then Nigeria. The third version of SkinApp is being validated in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Mozambique in preparation to use on a larger scale.

Validation studies have been performed amongst patients presenting with skin diseases in an outpatient dermatology clinic in Mwanza, Morogoro, Nampula and Harar over the past one year.

Preliminary results from the study conducted in Tanzania shows that of the 406 patients diagnosed, 272 diagnoses given were diseases included in SkinApp. In addition, adequate management advice was given to health workers in 60 percent of the cases and for patients with eczema (included in SkinApp) 92 percent of the management advice was correct.

SkinApp contains information on 29 skin diseases and the range is set to increase to cover around 35 skin diseases. It currently uses three language versions: English, Oromiffa and Portuguese.

“We aim to make it widely available especially for countries endemic for skin NTDs, with specific versions for African, Asian and Latin American countries,” noted Mieras.

Once the app is downloaded, it can be used offline hence suitable even in rural settings.