Teledermatology research review.
Teledermatology consultations can be performed using either store-and-forward or real-time technology. The best-studied aspect of teledermatology is diagnostic reliability, also known as diagnostic agreement. A good level of diagnostic reliability is achieved by dermatologists using both store-and-forward and real-time modalities and is comparable to that found between clinic-based examiners. Less information is available regarding diagnostic accuracy. Current data suggest that teledermatologists reviewing store-and-forward consults achieve accuracy comparable to that of clinic-based dermatologists. When store-and-forward consult systems are used, approximately one in four in-person clinic appointments are averted. Real-time consult systems avoid the need to schedule approximately one in two clinic visits. Store-and-forward technology results in timelier interventions for patients when compared to a conventional referral process. To date, surveys of both store-and-forward and real-time teledermatology consult modalities suggest that patients, referring clinicians, and dermatologists are all highly satisfied with teledermatology consults. Very little has been published about the economic impact of store-and-forward teledermatology, whereas several studies have evaluated real-time modalities. Teledermatology has ranged from a cost-saving strategy to an intervention that incurs greater costs than conventional care, depending on the health care setting and economic perspective. Future research focusing on diagnostic accuracy, clinical outcomes using clinical course or disease status as outcome measures, development of reliable and valid teledermatology-specific survey instruments, and economic analyses that assess cost-effectiveness will help guide future teledermatology program assessments and policy.
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