Original Research

Mobile App Usage Among Dermatology Residents in America

Author and Disclosure Information

Mobile applications (apps) have been a growing part of medicine for the last decade. Our cross-sectional online survey studied the role of apps in dermatology resident training. The demographic results and response rate suggest that our study sample is representative of the target population of dermatology residents in America. Our survey highlights the increasing role of apps in dermatology resident training, differences in priorities among different years of residency, and differences in information utilization between sexes. This knowledge should help guide standardization, quality assurance, and formal integration of medical mobile apps into traditional dermatology teaching.

Practice Points

  • Virtual resources, including mobile apps, have become critical tools for learning and patient care during dermatology resident training for reasons that should be elucidated.
  • Dermatology residents of different years and sexes utilize mobile apps in different amounts and for different purposes.



Mobile applications (apps) have been a growing part of medicine for the last decade. In 2020, more than 15.5 million apps were available for download,1 and more than 325,000 apps were health related.2 Much of the peer-reviewed literature on health-related apps has focused on apps that target patients. Therefore, we studied apps for health care providers, specifically dermatology residents of different sexes throughout residency. We investigated the role of apps in their training, including how often residents consult apps, which apps they utilize, and why.


An original online survey regarding mobile apps was emailed to all 1587 dermatology residents in America by the American Academy of Dermatology from summer 2019 to summer 2020. Responses were anonymous, voluntary, unincentivized, and collected over 17 days. To protect respondent privacy, minimal data were collected regarding training programs; geography served as a proxy for how resource rich or resource poor those programs may be. Categorization of urban vs rural was based on the 2010 Census classification, such that Arizona; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Florida; Illinois; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York; Oregon; Puerto Rico; Rhode Island; Texas; Utah; and Washington, DC, were urban, and the remaining states were rural.3

We hypothesized that VisualDx would be 1 of 3 most prevalent apps; “diagnosis and workup” and “self-education” would be top reasons for using apps; “up-to-date and accurate information” would be a top 3 consideration when choosing apps; the most consulted resources for clinical experiences would be providers, followed by websites, apps, and lastly printed text; and the percentage of clinical experiences for which a provider was consulted would be higher for first-year residents than other years and for female residents than male residents.

Fisher exact 2-tailed and Kruskal-Wallis (KW) pairwise tests were used to compare groups. Statistical significance was set at P<.05.


The response rate was 16.6% (n=263), which is similar to prior response rates for American Academy of Dermatology surveys. Table 1 contains respondent demographics. The mean age of respondents was 31 years. Sixty percent of respondents were female; 62% of respondents were training in urban states or territories. Regarding the dermatology residency year, 34% of respondents were in their first year, 32% were in their second, and 34% were in their third. Eighty-seven percent of respondents used Apple iOS. Every respondent used at least 1 dermatology-related app (mean, 5; range, 1–11)(Table 2).

Top Dermatology-Related Apps
The 10 most prevalent apps are listed in Table 2. The 3 most prevalent apps were VisualDx (84%, majority of respondents used daily), UpToDate (67%, majority of respondents used daily), and Mohs Surgery Appropriate Use Criteria (63%, majority of respondents used weekly). A higher percentage of third-year residents used GoodRx compared to first- and second-year residents (Fisher exact test: P=.014 and P=.041, respectively). A lower percentage of female respondents used GoodRx compared to male residents (Fisher exact test: P=.003). None of the apps were app versions of printed text, including textbooks or journals.

Reasons for Using Apps
The 10 primary reasons for using apps are listed in Table 2. The top 3 reasons were diagnosis and workup (83%), medication dosage (72%), and self-education (69%). Medication dosage and saving time were both selected by a higher percentage of third-year residents than first-year residents (Fisher exact test: P=.041 and P=.024, respectively). Self-education was selected by a lower percentage of third-year residents than second-year residents (Fisher exact test: P=.025).

Considerations When Choosing Apps
The 10 primary considerations when choosing apps are listed in Table 2. The top 3 considerations were up-to-date and accurate information (81%), no/low cost (80%), and user-friendly design (74%). Up-to-date and accurate information was selected by a lower percentage of third-year residents than first- and second-year residents (Fisher exact test: P=.02 and P=.03, respectively).

Consulted Resources
Apps were the second most consulted resource (26%) during clinical work, behind human guidance (73%). Female respondents consulted both resources more than male respondents (KW: P≤.005 and P≤.003, respectively). First-year residents consulted humans more than second-year and third-year residents (KW: P<.0001).

There were no significant differences by geography or mobile operating system.


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