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Skin Health

Be Aware of Who's Providing Your Skin Care

Thanks to the recent proliferation of websites and apps offering remote dermatologic consultations, patients may think they can receive quality care without ever leaving home. Not all of these teledermatology services offer the same standard of care, however, so patients should exercise caution when seeking such services. Fortunately, there are steps patients can take to evaluate dermatology websites and apps, allowing them to receive the best possible care while enjoying the benefits of a remote consultation.

Here, from the American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org), is information on the issue provided by Carrie Kovarik, MD, FAAD, associate professor, dermatology, dermatopathology and infectious diseases, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Because dermatology is such a visual specialty, Kovarik says, dermatologists were among the first specialists to utilize remote consultations, also known as telemedicine. Dermatologists have been evaluating disease images and discussing conditions over the phone for decades, she says, and the use of teledermatology has increased as technology has developed to accommodate it. Today, she says, patients can utilize computers and mobile devices to access dermatologic care when it might not otherwise be available, whether it’s because of insufficient insurance coverage, problems getting to the doctor’s office, or a lack of available dermatologists in rural areas or inner cities.

Although some dermatology services can’t be performed adequately via remote consultation, Kovarik says, questions about an easily photographable problem like a rash or a suspicious spot are appropriate for teledermatology. Remote consultations also may be utilized for triage, allowing a doctor to provide an initial evaluation of a problem and determine how soon the patient needs to come into the office, she says.

The growth of remote consultation services has included the development of direct-to-consumer websites and apps that patients can access themselves via their computers, tablets and smartphones. While these services may be convenient, Kovarik advises caution in utilizing them.

“A lot of patients are aware of these products and have probably seen them advertised. However, there are no regulations in place to ensure the quality of teledermatology services, so it’s important to do your due diligence before seeking a remote consultation online or via a mobile app.”

Not all teledermatology services offer consultations with a licensed, board-certified dermatologist. Kovarik says, and many don’t let patients re-contact their initial provider for follow-up questions. Additionally, some services don’t allow patients to submit photos, she says, which makes an accurate diagnosis difficult.

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