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Parent Photographs Can Offer Pediatric Dermatology Diagnoses without an Office Visit

The age of remote medicine is upon us. Using Smartphone cameras, parents can now reliably…

  • November 28, 2017

The age of remote medicine is upon us.

Using Smartphone cameras, parents can now reliably take high-quality photographs of their child’s skin condition to send to a dermatologist for diagnosis. This finding suggests that direct-to-patient dermatology can accurately provide pediatric dermatology care.

The results of research conducted by a team from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) were published this week in JAMA Dermatology.

“Advances in smartphone photography, both in quality and image transmission, may improve access to care via direct parent-to-provider telemedicine,” said Patrick McMahon, MD, pediatric dermatologist at CHOP and senior author of the study.

McMahon said that the study shows that, for the majority of cases, parents can take photographs of sufficient quality to allow for accurate teledermatology diagnoses in pediatric skin conditions.

“This is important because pediatric dermatologists are in short supply, with fewer than 300 board-certified physicians serving the nation’s 75m children,” he said.

The researchers compared diagnoses made during in-person examinations with photograph-based diagnoses made by a separate clinician.

Overall, of the 87 images submitted, the researchers found that 83% of the time, the photograph-based diagnosis agreed with the in-person diagnosis.

Only three images did not permit a conclusive remote diagnosis, owing to poor photographic quality. Among the photographs considered high-quality enough to make a diagnosis (37 families), there was an 89 % agreement in diagnoses.

McMahon noted that skin complaints represent 10% to 30% of all 200m pediatric office visits each year, adding, “While many children’s skin conditions can be handled without input from a pediatric dermatologist, the national shortage of specialists is a known barrier to accessing care. Our findings suggest that telemedicine could improve access for patient families who have geographic, scheduling or financial limitations, as well as reducing wait times.”

This is just one example, of course. But as more medical interventions can at least be started remotely, more office visits are avoided. This has potential to save the health care system many billions a year.

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