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Skin Health

Telemedicine and Your Skin Health

As coronavirus cases continue to rise, people are sheltering in place to slow its spread. However, many people still need care from a board-certified dermatologist. To keep patients safe and conserve personal protective equipment — such as masks, gowns, and gloves — many dermatologists are seeing patients virtually through telemedicine. Here’s an overview from the American Academy of Dermatology:

Telemedicine allows you to have an appointment with a doctor, including a dermatologist, from your home using your smartphone or computer. Patients with both new concerns and ones with chronic conditions can be treated through telemedicine.

Your appointment could include a video conference or telephone call. You can also send your dermatologist information — such as pictures of your condition and written descriptions — through your medical record, patient portal, or email.

During your telemedicine appointment, you can have your dermatologist examine a skin, hair, or nail problem. For some problems, such as a spot that might be melanoma and need testing, your doctor may ask you for an in-person appointment. Other possibilities for a telemedicine visit include maintaining treatment for a chronic skin condition. You may also be prescribed medication for a skin condition, if necessary.

Telemedicine works best for visible skin, hair, and nail conditions, including rashes; acne; eczema; psoriasis; and suspicious spots or moles.To find out if telemedicine may be the right choice for your dermatology appointment, talk with your doctor. By receiving care this way instead of in person, you can stay safe during the pandemic.

You can find a dermatologist who offers telemedicine appointments by doing an advanced search for teledermatology as the practice focus using this search method from the AAD.

Here are some of the best ways to prepare for your telehealth appointment.

*Contact your insurance provider to find out if your plan covers telemedicine appointments. Many insurance providers are updating their plans to cover telemedicine visits during the coronavirus pandemic. Find out what type of telemedicine visits are covered by your insurance.

*Gather essential information. This is especially important if you have a telemedicine appointment with a dermatologist you haven’t seen before. Knowing your medical history will help your dermatologist make a diagnosis, decide treatment options, and prescribe medicine, if necessary. Ask your dermatologist’s office if they have any forms you need to fill out before your appointment and when you should send the pictures and information you gather about your condition.

*Before your appointment, make a list of the following:

*Medications you take

*Any questions you have

*Major illnesses or surgeries you have had

*Previous skin problems

*When your current symptoms began

*Your allergies

*Illnesses that your family members have had, such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes

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For video visits, you will be sent a website link you can use to connect with your dermatologist at the time of your appointment. For telephone visits, you may be given instructions on when to expect a call from your dermatologist. To help your dermatologist examine your concern, take clear pictures of the areas you need examined. Follow these tips to make sure the pictures are the highest-possible quality:

*Make sure your pictures are well-lit. Take your pictures in natural light, if possible. Use another light source, like a book light or flashlight, if needed. Make sure that there aren’t any shadows or glares on the area you are taking pictures of.

*Take multiple pictures, including one of each side of the area you need examined. Make sure to show the entire area around your spot or rash. If your spot is hard to see, you may want circle it or draw an arrow pointing toward it with a marker.

*Take pictures to compare. For example, if you have a spot on your hand, take pictures of both hands so your dermatologist can see how that area usually looks. Make sure you also take a close-up and a far-away picture of the areas you are concerned about so your dermatologist can compare.

*Just like an in-person dermatologist appointment, do not wear makeup. If you need your nails examined, take off any nail polish you have on before taking any pictures.

*Get help. If you live with someone, ask them to take pictures of hard-to-reach areas, such as your back. If you live alone, use a mirror to make sure you are taking pictures of the right spot.

*Avoid irritating your skin before your appointment. Try to avoid doing things that could change the appearance of your skin before you begin your telemedicine appointment or take your pictures. Some examples of things to avoid are taking a hot shower, rubbing or picking at your skin, or applying skin care products.

*Find a private space. Find a quiet and private space without distractions to have your appointment. Make sure you can connect to the internet in that space and it has the best-possible lighting.

Doing these things before your telemedicine appointment begins will help you get the dermatologic care you need.

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