What is Teledermatology? Definition, Benefits, Types, and Applications
This article will help you understand what teledermatology is, how it works, the benefits it brings, the uses it has, and how it can help you grow your dermatology practice.
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So, you’re interested in learning more about teledermatology? That is really good, your patients need dermatology care, and you have limited time to see them due to the high volume of patients. Teledermatology can help you keep up with this demand and attract new patients to your dermatology clinic by enabling you to provide efficient virtual care, wherever you are.
Implementing teledermatology is a great way to attract more patients and boost your business, and it is even more important when you are setting up a new dermatology practice. You’re taking a step in the right direction. This article serves as an introduction to this topic, so it covers the basics, including the definition of teledermatology, its benefits, and its applications.
It is also worth mentioning that the teledermatology reimbursement rate is now comparable to in-person consultations by the largest insurance companies in the U.S.
If you want to read more in-depth about this topic, you can download the Teledermatology White Paper by filling in the contact form at the end of this article.
What is Teledermatology?
Teledermatology is one of the most common telemedicine applications. It is usually delivered via store-and-forward communications or live video conferencing1.
Teledermatology (commonly referred to as Telederm by practitioners) is also defined as a subspecialty of dermatology. Since most skin diseases are visible, dermatologists are able to expand their reach to patients in a cost-effective manner by using advanced telehealth technologies2. It uses specialized software or digital tools to evaluate the condition of a patient’s skin by capturing video or images and communicating with their dermatologist.
Teledermatology can also be practiced via the telephone, but these consultations are increasingly supported by images or video to enable the provider to make a visual examination.
In teledermatology, store-and-forward communication refers to the exchange of digital images and information between a patient and a provider. With live video, patients and providers interact via a live videoconferencing solution.
Teledermatology is particularly important for the diagnosis, assessment, and management of patients’ cases at a distance and in a convenient and cost-efficient. Read Megan Fry’s story to learn more.
It is also worth mentioning that teledermatology is fully reimbursable, at a similar rate to face-to-face consultations.
As healthcare technology evolves, the benefits of teledermatology for pediatric patients and adults have become clearer, the long waiting times to see a dermatologist are being reduced, and patients don’t need an in-person appointment to receive care.
Today’s trend is having access to more convenient and high-quality care.
Dermatology telehealth systems bridge the gap between dermatologists, specialists, and patients providing new ways for patients to access dermatology care.
What are the Benefits of Teledermatology?
1. Efficiency and convenience
2. Increased access for people in rural areas
3. Improved patient satisfaction
4. Reduced waiting times
5. Hastens treatment for urgent patients
6. Increased number of managed patient cases
1. More convenience for providers and patients
Telehealth is efficient and convenient for both providers and patients because it avoids the inconvenience of commuting. Both participants can be in the comfort of their own homes and hundreds of miles away from each other.
With asynchronous telehealth, this convenience increases even more since dermatologists and patients do not have to be available simultaneously. Patients can use an app or web portal to enter their details and send high-quality images of their skin condition whenever is convenient for them.
Providers can view all of their patients’ requests whenever it suits their busy schedule, whether it is at the end of the day, between consultations, or during no-shows and cancellations. Since there aren’t any real-time appointments, the provider’s efficiency is much higher.
2. Increased access for patients in rural areas
There are certain areas in the U.S. where there is a lack of dermatologists; therefore, patients often postpone getting treatment. Telederm enables remote care and saves extensive costs for patients, especially those in rural areas where a lack of providers and large distances between patients and clinics can cause challenges.
3. Caters to the digital patients
Today’s patients are dissatisfied with the current healthcare delivery model because it has many inefficiencies. According to a global survey, 25% of the patients are willing to switch providers in favor of one that offers high-quality digital services3. One of the advantages of teledermatology is that it addresses the needs of these digital patients who seek efficient virtual care delivery.
4. Reduces the wait time to see a dermatologist
The average wait time for a patient to see a dermatologist is 32.3 days4, and the waiting time to see a pediatric dermatologist exceeds 100 days5. One of the most significant benefits of using store-and-forward teledermatology is that by using this technology, the waiting time to see a dermatologist is reduced to less than 48 hours. Read about Megan Fry’s story.
5. Speeds up treatment for patients with potential skin cancer
Telemederm may also benefit patients with a previous skin cancer diagnosis. Some of these patients require annual mole exams, and telemedicine could complement these consultations, increasing patient participation and satisfaction and reducing costs6.
Store-and-forward teledermatology is even more beneficial for these patients since it is beneficial for a dermatologist if the patient has a well-documented photographic history of their skin. Close-up photos of atypical moles and large body areas can help evaluate any changes in the skin and take action faster.
6. Increases the number of patient cases dermatologists can review per day
On average, a dermatologist can take five in-person consultations per hour. However, with a store-and-forward telehealth solution, they may be able to review up to 20 patient cases in the same period7.
Attract more patients to your clinic, reduce the waiting time for patients, and get more flexibility on your schedule.
An intuitive solution for Dermatology Clinics
Types of Teledermatology: Data Transmission Modes
The advantages of teledermatology are many, but it is important to differentiate between the different types of technologies (or data transmission modes) used and the advantages or disadvantages these technologies bring to the table.
Primarily, teledermatology encompasses two main data transmission modes:
- Synchronous or Live-Video-Conferencing (LVC)
- Asynchronous or Store-and-Forward (SAF)
Live Video Conferencing (LVC)
Live-Video-Conferencing (LVC) is a popular communication mode in telemedicine and has been thoroughly researched for implementation in dermatology.
Live video communication offers the same voice interaction between the participants as on the telephone, but the live camera can be directed towards a rash or skin lesion for visual inspection in real-time.
In most cases, using live video conferencing is inefficient in dermatology. Although it tries to mimic a physical consultation and is a possibility for patients very far from the dermatologist’s office, the technology doesn’t work well for a specialty like dermatology, and it has a few disadvantages compared to SAF technology.
Disadvantages of Live Video Conferencing (LVC):
- Inefficient use of the provider’s time
- No time savings over in-person consultations
- Incorrect diagnostic outcomes due to low-quality video
- Short meeting delays create a backlog of patients
Store-and-Forward (SAF) Teledermatology
With a store-and-forward teledermatology platform, patients can upload high-quality images of their skin condition and their chief complaint, symptoms, and other clinical data. Dermatologists can then review the patient’s request and deliver virtual care.
With this technology, the consultation happens asynchronously, which means that participants communicate at a distance and at different times.
Best telehealth technology for dermatology
Due to its incredible convenience, affordability, and lack of technical requirements, asynchronous teledermatology is being widely adopted by forward-thinking clinics looking to provide superior healthcare to their patients.
According to research, SAF telehealth is equivalent to high-quality live video conferencing from a diagnostic point of view. Unfortunately, it is impossible to obtain high-quality video for a telehealth consult in most cases since both parties need a speedy internet connection, which is unlikely.
On the other hand, store-and-forward technology does not require a speedy internet connection. Most of today’s smartphones can capture the high-quality images needed for consultation. Besides, the consultation takes place asynchronously, which means both participants do not need to be available at the same time.
Providing easy and convenient access to a healthcare professional is one of the biggest advantages of teledermatolgy. Through the power of telecommunications, patients can have access to healthcare professionals wherever they are, whenever it is convenient for them. Below you will find the most common use of teledermatology.
Applications of Teledermatology:
- Direct Consultations
- Specialist Referral
- Online Patient Triage
- Virtual Prescription Renewals
- Patient Follow-up Care
1. Direct Consultations
Patients with a skin condition use a teledermatology system to get remote care for non-emergency skin problems.
This usually happens through a smartphone app or web portal where patients fill in their details, write down their chief complaint, symptoms and take some high-quality photos of their skin conditions.
Through a web portal, dermatologists can access all their patients’ requests, and if the case seems straightforward, such as in the case of acne, they can offer a diagnosis and treatment.
2. Specialist Referral
Referring to a specialist is an important application in teledermatology. A primary care physician that sees the patient’s case can consult with a dermatologist to get a second opinion. The specialist then helps the primary care physician to offer a diagnosis and treatment.
SAF technology allows non-specialists to easily consult colleagues and get a second opinion on a patient’s case. This technology enables information-sharing between different departments. By sharing the patient’s data and high-quality images, providers can consult with a dermatologist when they consider it necessary.
3. Virtual Triage of Patients
Virtual triage in dermatology refers to the practice of using a telehealth system to assess patients online and prioritize them based on the severity of their disease and the resources available.
With SAF technology, the dermatologist can review all patients’ requests continuously as they come in; therefore, after reviewing all cases, they can call a patient with a severe skin disease or a suspicious-looking lesion in for an in-person visit and others can receive care in a telehealth visit.
4. Virtual Medication Renewals
In most countries, to renew a prescription that is older than a year, dermatologists need to have an in-person consultation with the patient first.
To renew the prescription, the provider usually asks patients a series of questions about their health and symptoms; this ensures that the patient is doing well and the medicine is working and not causing any side effects.
Telemedicine enables virtual prescription renewals. Patients can answer a clinical questionnaire via the app or web portal, and if the provider deems it adequate, they will refill the prescription online without the need for an in-person appointment.
5. Follow-up Care
Disease management via teledermatology can be even more effective for patients with a confirmed diagnosis and prescribed treatment plan.
Patients with chronic skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis often require many follow-up visits, and some of these follow-up visits could occur remotely8.
Teledermatology – Summary and Conclusion
Teledermatology is a fast, easy, and cost-effective way for patients to receive dermatology treatment for most skin issues without being physically seen in the office.
As a subspecialty of dermatology, it is poised to become more and more popular as both healthcare providers and patients realize the benefits. It has already begun to heavily impact the patient experience since it allows providers to treat more patients while also being more convenient.
Its use will certainly grow over time since the technology is now more available, and affordable and private insurance reimbursement is maturing. Teledermatology can also be used as part of an efficient digital marketing strategy to attract more patients to your dermatology clinic.
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