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The viability of teledermatology during Covid-19

A study conducted at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India found teledermatology to be a viable alternative to in-person dermatology visits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Further refinement of the process could lead to even more acceptability,” the study’s authors wrote.

The research, published online ahead of print in the journal Dermatologic Therapy (June 5, 2021), analyzed the patient and physician experience as well as the acceptability of teledermatology over a period of six months.

Investigators set up a smartphone-based hybrid model of teledermatology services that provided direct care to patients.

A single-centre, retrospective study was conducted from May 20, 2020, to Oct. 31, 2020. Researchers used a four-point scale to assess patient satisfaction levels for teledermatology. The patient satisfaction of the consultation was compared with the satisfaction level of their last physical visit prior to Covid-19. A physician assessment form was also used to record the experience of dermatologists while providing teledermatology services.

The researchers registered 7,530 patients in the study and 6,125 received a dermatology consult. Between May and October 2020, the average number of teleconsultations per day rose to 77.96 from 23.60.

The average age of patients receiving teledermatology services was 33.60 years. The average distance saved regarding care and travel time were 100.90 kilometers and 135 minutes respectively. A definitive diagnosis could be ascertained in 5,724 patients (93.45%) and an in-person visit was recommended to 133 patients (2.2%).

Feedback was received from 5,229 of the 6,125 patients who received a consult. The feedback included 935 (18.18%) who were very satisfied, 2,230 (42.65%) who were satisfied, 1,749 (33.45%) who were partially satisfied and 300 patients (5.70%) who reported being unsatisfied.

Of the 1,914 patients, who used in-person dermatology facilities prior to the pandemic, 914 patients (49.62%) preferred in-person visits.

The study also surveyed 34 dermatologists and the results showed that 88.2% felt comfortable providing teleconsultations and 82.4% felt the need to continue teledermatology services in the upcoming months.

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