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Bridging the digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Innovative telehealth—including text messaging and video appointments—helps a patient with severe acne access safe, effective care.

Alana's story

Alana Nicholas, SkinSerious patient
Alana Nicholas, patient
Like many, my skin started breaking out during my teenage years once I hit puberty. The physical effects of the deep, painful cysts that appeared on my body were as challenging as the emotional aspects. It was distressing to have no control over my skin and my confidence was at rock bottom.

I began seeing Dr. Shoshana Marmon, a board-certified dermatologist in Brooklyn, to treat my acne. The treatments often worked for a few months before waning and we needed to try something different.

After we’d exhausted other treatment options, Dr. Marmon prescribed one of the most effective treatments for severe acne. Since this treatment can cause serious problems for a developing baby, it requires a negative pregnancy test each month. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to go the clinic twice a month — once for the pregnancy test and then again for my actual appointment. I don’t drive so the trip takes twice as long on public transit. Coupled with time in the waiting room, it’s several hours each visit. With my job as a mental health specialist, it’s hard to take that much time off work. I didn’t want to choose between caring for myself and my job.

During the pandemic Dr. Marmon and her team offered telemedicine appointments that I could easily access from home by using my phone. I didn’t have to have a computer, worry about internet access or logging into a portal, or traveling during the peak of the pandemic in New York City. Through text messages, Dr. Marmon was still able to view photos and video of my skin, make treatment changes, and confirm the required negative pregnancy test.

I’m now done with the intense treatment and continue to see Dr. Marmon for routine follow-up care. I hope to continue telehealth appointments, even when the pandemic ends, because of the convenience.

Both my skin and my confidence are they best they’ve ever been. Without Dr. Marmon’s care and treatment, I would be miserable.

The dermatologist's perspective

Shoshana Marmon, MD, PhD, FAAD

“During the COVID-19 lockdown, patients were unable to come to our safety-net hospital in Brooklyn for in-person dermatology appointments. Our clinic launched virtual visits with photo-sharing and video capability via text message to ensure that patients had continuity of care regardless of internet access, technical know-how, or preferred language. Now the entire hospital has adopted this approach, and we will continue to use it post-pandemic. This user-friendly method of telehealth breaks down barriers so patients can get the care they need when they need it; increasing access and decreasing no-shows, a win-win for patients and clinicians.”

─ Shoshana Marmon, MD, PhD, FAAD, Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Research, New York Medical College Dermatology Department and Director of Dermatology, Cumberland Diagnostic and Treatment Center

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