1. What is live-interactive teledermatology?
This practice is based on the connection between patient and dermatology practitioner through a dermatoscopic software platform that allows for real-time interaction. This live session is intended to emulate how an in-person visit would be conducted.
Some of the most prevalent benefits of live-interactive teledermatology can be summarized as follows:
- Real time patient/practitioner connectivity
- Immediateness in lesion examination and diagnosis
- Reduced healthcare costs associated with increased productivity
- Minimized societal costs associated with travel and work absenteeism
- Increased efficiency in patient time management
- Faster delivery of healthcare services
- Reduced patient waiting times for consultation
2. Advantages of the live-interactive approach
Live teledermatology sessions provide the immediateness of having a one-to-one consultation with a specialized physician, more like an actual clinical appointment. Real time discussion can dramatically improve the patient/professional communication cycle bringing a better explanation of symptoms and leading to a more accurate diagnosis. As a result, this is the method of choice when dealing with urgent cases which require regular follow-up or further pathology procedures.
In addition, during a live session there is a better opportunity of completing a total body imaging exam, more so than a patient selectively submitting one particular mole image for examination, based on their own judgement of symptoms. Unfortunately, this could lead to potentially malignant lesions to be overlooked. This is where the focus should be, since these images will be determinant in establishing the correct diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
One last advantage resides on the high patient satisfaction of the live-interactive approach of teledermatology. Interestingly, around 75% of patient agree they would recommend the practice to someone else.2 Among those who prefer in-person visits, live-interactive service is of preference, with a higher appreciation of its availability in rural areas compared to urban locations. Overall, patients’ positive attitude towards teledermatology usage reflects the utility behind this practice.
3. Technical challenges of teledermatology software
Teledermatology services rely heavily on patient’s access to a high-speed internet connection. In this scenario, the live approach is mostly limited to certain geographical locations determined by the availability of internet services. As a consequence, this approach might be a limitation for patients residing in remote rural areas, making it inefficient to target this population.
Other hindrances posed in live-interactive practice reside in the need to be physical present for live sessions as well as the cost associated with maintaining the telecommunication platform. Additionally, the technical knowledge to operate such platform might represent a barrier for some patients who may not be particularly savvy in that regard. Similarly, submission of dermoscopic images may prove challenging due to the live nature of the interaction. Patients could only provide images as long as they have a live video dermoscope available, which is highly unlikely due to the elevated cost of such devices.
One last challenge encountered relates to the discomfort that some patients may experience while having a live session with a practitioner. Having to perform total body imaging can have some invasive connotations for some, making it a less desirable option.
Teledermatology software can provide an alternative to traditional practice without sacrificing best dermatology practice services. The live-interactive approach enjoys a wide patient satisfaction for its utility in supporting one-on-one sessions, providing immediateness in diagnosis. However, its operability costs and technical knowledge requirements contend against it. Part 2 of this post will look at the dermoscopic image store-and-forward technique and how it compares to live-interactive as the other approach to teledermatology services.
-The MetaOptima Team
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