-The MetaOptima Team
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Teledermatology (a branch of telemedicine specializing in cases relating to the skin) has become a popular solution to address the growing number of documented skin conditions such as melanoma. As these services have become more widespread, medical professionals are beginning to offer the solution in a wider variety of spaces. What are these settings and why have they encouraged the growth of teledermatology where regular in-office visits failed?
Identified as the most prominent area for teledermatology services, rural areas are predicted to benefit from these services due to the low dermatologist-patient ratio, long distances between medical centers, and limited mobility for patients and medical professionals alike. In 2016, the teledermatology market was valued at $4.4 billion with a projected CAGR of 8.7% by 2024.1 Proven to limit unnecessary in-clinic visits, this could alleviate the necessary amount of travel for patients in need of care by as much as 40%.2
Surprisingly, teledermatology services in an urban setting have proven to be even more popular than its rural counterpart. Although rural services have increased steadily, the urban demographic has experienced a drastic increase from 25% to over 45% from 2015-2016.3 This suggests that although teledermatology certainly has a place for under-served communities it is proving to be an effective tool for urban users. It is important to note that this may in part be due to a dermatologist shortage that is not limited to rural areas, which are accompanied by long appointment wait times sometimes as long as six months.
In order to address the growing number of dermatology cases visionary pharmacies are partnering with dermatologists and EMR system companies to provide affordable skin health solutions. By providing an intrinsic part of their customers’ care, pharmacies are able to become a central hub within the community for promoting the early detection of skin cancer and other dermatology-related conditions.
In this scenario, patients have the opportunity to walk in or schedule an appointment with the online booking system. At the session they will have a spot imaged by a trained professional with the use of a mobile dermoscope. The image will be securely sent via a teledermatology app to a designated dermatologist for review, at which point feedback will be sent directly through the patient portal app within a matter of days.
Although in its initial stages, teledermatology services are pointed towards becoming an intrinsic part of healthcare. However, it is important to note that in many studies the direct number of participants that report using telehealth remains low, translating to as little as 6.75 telehealth visits per 1,000 enrolled users.4 Industry experts predict that insurance coverage, wider implementation, interoperability, and public awareness will be key factors for the technology’s success. In spite of being currently somewhat of a “niche” solution, it is clear that teledermatology services are a flexible and affordable solution that provides care to a wide variety of patients and settings. In a world of expanding healthcare and ever-changing rules, regulations and needs this will undoubtedly become a key trait to its success.
-The MetaOptima Team