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Teledermatology. Current status and future directions.

Whited JD. Teledermatology. Current status and future directions. American journal of clinical dermatology. 2001 Feb 1; 2(2):59-64.

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Teledermatology is becoming an increasingly common means of delivering dermatologic healthcare worldwide and will almost certainly play a greater role in the future. The type of technology used distinguishes the 2 modes of teledermatology consultation. The store and forward technique uses still digital images generated by a digital camera. Consultations of this type are considered asynchronous since the images are obtained, sent, and reviewed at different times. In contrast, real-time interactive consultations are synchronous. Patients and clinicians interact in real-time through an audio-video communication link. Each modality has its advantages and disadvantages, and studies appear in the literature that assess both technologies. Although diagnostic reliability (precision) assessments for teledermatology are subject to limitations, existing information indicates that both store and forward and real-time interactive technology result in reliable diagnostic outcomes when compared with clinic-based evaluations. Less information regarding diagnostic accuracy is available; however, one evaluation that used store and forward technology found comparable diagnostic accuracy between teledermatology consultations and clinic-based examinations. Currently, little information is available regarding cost effectiveness and patient outcomes. Existing evidence, while inconclusive, suggests that teledermatology may be more costly than traditional clinic-based care, especially when using real-time interactive technology. Teledermatology has been shown to have utility as a triage mechanism for determining the urgency or need for a clinic-based consultation. Overall, patients appear to accept teledermatology and are satisfied with it as a means of obtaining healthcare. Clinicians have also generally reported positive experiences with teledermatology. Future studies that focus on cost effectiveness, patient outcomes, and patient and clinician satisfaction will help further define the potential of teledermatology as a means of dermatologic healthcare delivery.

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