Teledermatology helps improve access to face-to-face care

A teledermatology program helped improve patient access to face-to-face care in a study at the Mann-Grandstaff Spokane Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.

Most teledermatology research focuses on specialist visits avoided, notes the report, published in Telemedicine and e-Health. In light of the VA wait-time scandal, these researchers wanted to examine the effect of teledermatology on wait times for specialist appointments.

As a means of dealing with the burgeoning demand for dermatology services, the VA center trained two primary care physicians to perform basic dermatology procedures at its rural clinics. It also implemented a store-and-forward teledermatology program at the rural clinics. Later, it expanded teledermatology at its main Spokane location.

The center found a significant unmet need for dermatology services, even at the Spokane facility with a full-time dermatologist.

Within six months of implementation, the total number of requests for dermatology services increased by 40 percent. At the same time, the time between a consultation request and its completion dropped from a mean of 64.2 days to 20.3 days, according to the report.

In addition, with the added staff and teledermatology program, the average wait for a patient to have his or her dermatology condition addressed dropped from 60.6 days to 10.3 days.

A study published last month in JAMA Dermatology found that while visits with dermatologists for treatment of acne via telemedicine ease the burden on patients, many are unwilling to pay out-of-pocket for the service. Another study published in the same journal last spring concluded that Google Glass is a feasible mHealth tool for dermatology diagnosis in the emergency room setting.

To learn more:
- read the abstract