Still, I was intrigued when I saw the National Eczema Association had developed a free “Eczema App” together with pharma giant Bayer. I decided to check it out. It took seconds to download from the App Store to my iPhone 5.
The Eczema App is three things at the same time: a flare tracker and reporter; an information reference; and an advertisement for Bayer’s topical steroid Desonate.
The flare tracker and reporter seems like it could be pretty useful, especially to a parent trying to figure out what is triggering his or her child’s eczema. The app lets you register when a flare starts and stops. In between, you can note what you think might be triggering it, and take pictures of the damage. You can email a flare report, images and notes included, to your doctor or nurse.
And you can set up profiles for as many as five people—I set up one for myself and one for my daughter.
My only quibble with this section was that I had trouble finding the button that would let me report that my flare had ended. (This function is hidden in the Tracker > Update > Flare-up details tab.)
The second, the info-and-news section, is a nice little package of basic facts and advice for patients with eczema or parents of affected children. It’s pitched toward someone who hasn’t encountered eczema before. Me, I’ve had it for 41 years and I blog about it, so my first reaction was that this section was too dumbed-down, but I can see that it could be useful to a newbie.
I do wish the info section didn’t mention antihistamines though. They do not help prevent the itch of eczema and their only utility is that they can make you drowsy and might make it easier for you to go to sleep.
The Desonate advertising section is placed toward the bottom of the app. It is semi-discreet. But it still seems like pushy pharma marketing to me. I hope the NEA got some decent sponsorship funds in return for the exposure.
My overall impression of the app was colored by the advertising. It's great that you can use your iPhone to collect and report medical data. But the app is much like a free mug or pen you might pick up at a convention. You drink your coffee or scribble your notes, and it gets the job done, but that logo is always staring at you from your desk.
When I tweeted about the Eczema App, I heard back on Twitter from Emma Williams, a nurse in Swansea, Wales who operates a specialty eczema clinic. She too has an eczema app, "Eczema Expert." I took a glance at it in the App Store but was put off by a couple glaring mistakes—one of the questions in the diagnostic section was “Do you itchy skin?” and there was a mention of “tropical” steroids. I couldn’t bring myself to spend $1.99 because the typos gave a shoddy impression. Let me know when you’ve fixed the app, Emma!