By April W. Armstrong, MD, MPH
Teledermatology is a term that was brought to my attention early in my training and has become a regular part of my vocabulary in my current practice. However, this method of delivering dermatological care has only recently been getting uptake throughout the specialty beyond the early adopters.
Teledermatology is the remote delivery of dermatologic services and clinical information using telecommuncations technology. Two modalities exist in telemedicine, and they include store-and-forward and live-interactive modes. I use both modes of telemedicine to provide care to patients.
Store-and-forward consists of sending images and pertinent patient data to a specialist. Live-interactive allows video to be used to convey patient symptoms and diagnosis dialogue. There are two types of uses of these modalities, including direct-to-patient and provider-to-provider. In my practice, we only use live-interactive telemedicine when the patient is with another provider at a coordinating site.
Direct-to-patient expands on existing physician-patient experiences in a virtual way. This allows a patient to send information or interact through a telemedicine platform with a dermatologist. The provider-to-provider model allows another physician to send patient information to the specialist for either consultation or triage. This has the potential to expand our reach as dermatologists in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
AccessDerm is designed to connect volunteer AAD dermatologists with underserved populations, including patients at community clinics, in rural areas, and the uninsured.
All of these technology changes can enhance our practice of medicine. The AAD's Telemedicine Task Force, which is a group of physician members who work on teledermatology issues, recognized the need to provide more resources to dermatologists who are interested in telemedicine. As a member of the Telemedicine Task Force, I am able to contribute to the many telemedicine resources being developed.
One such effort is the recently launched Academy Web page that provides information about the growing field of telemedicine and teledermatology. This Web page includes educational resources, as well as information about telemedicine-related public policies and current practice models. It also serves as an introduction and link to the Academy’s volunteer teledermatology initiative, AccessDerm.
AccessDerm is an Academy-supported store-and-forward telemedicine platform that you can access using a Web browser or apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. AccessDerm is designed to connect volunteer AAD dermatologists with underserved populations, including patients at community clinics, in rural areas, and the uninsured. Dermatologists are connected with clinics that they self-identify, already volunteer with, or that AAD staff helps them find. These clinics serve patients in their respective states where the volunteer dermatologists are licensed.
Volunteer consultations provide help to these underserved patients to address their dermatological issues when they wouldn't ordinarily have access to care. I have had the opportunity to be involved with the development of this program and have participated as a volunteer. It truly serves as a great introduction to telemedicine while allowing you to give back with a flexible time commitment.
AAD members who use teledermatology are now able to indicate this in their AAD profiles. Only members will be able to view this information in the corresponding member directory telemedicine drop-down selection, allowing us to search for and connect with other colleagues who practice teledermatology. To indicate that you use teledermatology in your practice, edit your AAD member profile here.
If you aren't using teledermatology yet, use the resource links below to learn more about this modality and how implementing it can enhance your practice.
April Armstrong, MD, MPH, is vice chair of clinical research, director of the clinical research unit, and director of teledermatology at University of California Health System. Dr. Armstrong has expertise in outcomes research, psoriasis, and technology-enabled delivery of health care, and is a member of the AAD's Telemedicine Task Force.
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