Online Dermatology Consultations may Reduce Need for Office Visits

May 21, 2009

A new study has found that the use of teledermatologic consultations can reduce referrals to specialists and decrease the wait time for appointments.

The use of teledermatologic consultations can reduce referrals to specialists and decrease the wait time for appointments, a new study has found.

The researchers determined that 39% of patients who received a teledermatologic consultation did not require an office visit, compared with 18.3% of patients who had not received a consultation. In addition, at the time of the one-month visit, one-fifth of patients who had received the teledermatologic consultations had recovered, in contrast with 4.1% of the control patients.

Nina Eminovic, PhD, University of Amsterdam, and colleagues from both the University of Amsterdam and the University of Dundee, Scotland, the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and the University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands, performed the study with 631 patients, including 327 patients who received teledermatologic consultations from 46 intervention general practitioners (GPs) as well as 304 patients who did not receive such consultations from 39 control GPs.

Physicians participating in the consultations were provided with four images of each patient’s skin problem and a standard form describing the problem. The physicians then referred patients to dermatologists in their region, who were given an e-mail notification of the referral, the images, and the form. After receiving and reviewing the information, the dermatologists then responded by using the same website as the physicians.

According to the researchers, the use of teledermatologic consultations could potentially lower referrals by 20.7%.

"Assuming that patients who did not visit a dermatologist or a G.P. after the teledermatologic consultation had recovered or at least partially recovered, nearly 50% of teledermatologic consultations improved or recovered compared with 15% in the control group," the researchers said. "Teledermatologic consultation successfully enables G.P.s to treat patients they would otherwise refer to a dermatologist.”

To see an abstract of the study article that was published in the Archives of Dermatology, click here.