Dermatology patients experience better care via telehealth

Dermatology patients who undergo telehealth consultations generally experience positive results, according to a study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Archives of Dermatology.

For the study, medical records were examined for roughly 1,500 patients who were seen from 2003 to 2005 at the University of California, Davis. Diagnoses and treatment plans were compared between referring physicians and teledermatologists.

Overall, nearly 70 percent of diagnoses from referring physicians were changed after the live interactive teledermatology consultation. As a result, disease management was changed for nearly 98 percent of patients.

What's more, of 313 patients who had at least two teledermatology visits within one year, 68.7 percent experienced clinical improvements, the study's authors found.

"Multivariate analysis showed that changes in diagnosis, changes in disease management and the number of teledermatology visits were significantly associated with improved clinical outcomes," researchers wrote.

The findings were the latest touting the benefits of telemedicine. In December, the Whole System Demonstrator program in UK found that remote monitoring reduced mortality rates by 45 percent. Telehealth also was found to have reduced emergency visits by 15 percent, cut emergency admissions by 20 percent and decreased bed days by 14 percent.

According to Mark Probst, CIO for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, telehealth is becoming less of a novelty and more of a "competitive requirement."

"I don't see how the hospital CEO can ignore telemedicine," he told Hospital & Health Networks. "Busy tech-savvy patient will want more user-friendly access to healthcare and will be far more likely to use technical solutions to aid in this convenience."

The Archives of Dermatology study was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract

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