How to balance skin cancer and COVID-19 threats in high-risk populations
It is an unfortunate reality that many of the patients at the greatest risk from COVID-19 are also those with an increased risk of melanomas and carcinomas. As many dermatologists wrestle with how to best manage their patients’ risks, some leading doctors are combining in-office mole-mapping with teledermatology follow-ups to help balance the conflicting needs of patient care.
As more offices open, it becomes possible to take in-office baseline total body photos to establish a patient’s skin health record and create a digital mole-map for future monitoring. This is a great opportunity to screen patients and establish a cadence for ongoing care, while also biopsying any concerning lesions. The reservations of bringing in a patient for this procedure are outweighed by the benefits in most cases, as this baseline photoset establishes the ability to effectively monitor for changes and new lesions over time.
Patients then have access to see their photos at home, facilitating monthly skin monitoring for new or changed spots. Dermatologists should establish a schedule of routine follow-up visits, which can be done via telemedicine. Patients have the ability to submit high-quality and contextual photos of their skin before a visit, making it easy for dermatologists to review what has changed compared to the baseline set and discuss concerns and questions with the patient via real-time video.
After screening via telemedicine, if anything requires a biopsy, the patient can then come in for that procedure. This process reserves in-office visits for patients who require a procedure that can only be done in person. Using telemedicine for screenings and routine follow-ups is an excellent way to keep patients and providers safe without sacrificing patient care.
Annual in-office photo sets are a great way to keep up with patients and continue to monitor for changes in skin over time. This combined approach using in-office visits for key procedures and telemedicine for routine follow-ups is likely to be the way more progressive offices operate for the foreseeable future.