Why patients and dermatologists have vastly different opinions on teledermatology

Telehealth has become increasingly popular over the last several years, with a sharp increase in usage in the last few months. A survey of seniors found an astounding 91% had a favorable experience with telehealth and that 78% are likely to use telehealth again in the future. With numbers like these, it is no wonder that dermatologists are seeing the same trend among their own patients. Nearly every dermatologist I have spoken with reports that their patients are happy using telemedicine and that many expect that their patients will want to continue to use telemedicine going forward.

From the patient side, this makes sense. Dr. Deirdre Hooper of Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans notes, “My patients love teledermatology. And the younger they are, the more they love it. People do not like to wait and teledermatology appointments allow them to skip the drive and be seen in the comfort of their home.”

My patients love teledermatology. And the younger they are, the more they love it. – Dr. Deirdre Hooper

The opinions of dermatologists are generally less favorable, however. Not only do many miss the more personal connection of an in-office visit, most express concerns with the technology available to give them good visibility to their patients’ skin. In researching the needs for an optimal teledermatology product, I conducted a series of interviews with dermatologists to understand what elements would be critical to mimicking the in-person exam experience. A few things stood out, but the core idea that surfaced was that improvements to photo quality is by far the most important element of improving the experience of teledermatology for dermatologists.

Why Improvements to Photo Quality Matters to Dermatologists:

Diagnostic AbilityWorkflow Efficiency
  • “Many patients submit blurry photos that are not helpful”
  • “A single close-up photo gives no context to evaluate how that mole compares to other moles on the patient”
  • “Guidance on how to take photos leads to in-focus and properly exposed images”
  • “My diagnosis is much more accurate if I have photos than if I only have video”
  • “My staff spends hours coaching patients on how to take photos that are in-focus”
  • “Without good photos ahead of time, I will resort to guiding the patient during a video-call so I can act as photographer and capture a screen-shot to see the lesion”
  • “If I have good photos from a patient, I already know the diagnosis and can have an efficient call focused on discussing treatment instead of trying to see their skin”

Hearing these insights from dermatologists really solidified how we at SkinIO can help in the teledermatology space. While numerous options are available for teledermatology, most are purely video-conferencing platforms. The more advanced ones offer store-and-forward capabilities as well, but none of these offer guidance to patients on how to send better photos.

At SkinIO, we have used our years of skin photographing and mole-mapping experience to develop a product that we believe meets the needs of dermatologists in a telemedicine platform:

  1. Guided photo-taking to ensure region photos are provided to give context
  2. Blur-detection and warnings on close-up photos
  3. No reduction in resolution, ensuring that the best photos are available for diagnosis
  4. Ease of use for patients, reducing the time spent on technology issues

While dermatologists might prefer to see as many patients in-person as possible, many expect that telemedicine is here to stay to some degree. We are happy to be able to improve the experience for dermatologists to make their lives a little easier.