Background: Access to dermatologists is limited for disadvantaged patients, who may receive suboptimal dermatologic care from nonspecialists. We assessed if teledermatology could improve primary care provider (PCP)-delivered care for cutaneous disease at a clinic serving uninsured patients.
Materials and Methods: Utilizing the American Academy of Dermatology’s free AccessDerm program, we offered store-and-forward teledermatology to PCPs, who initiated consultations at will during clinical care independent of the study. We retrospectively analyzed all consultations from 2013 to 2017 and collected patient age/sex, teledermatologist diagnosis, time to teledermatologist reply, time to next dermatology appointment, as well as PCP- and teledermatologist-proposed care plans.
Results: Retrospective analysis of 131 consults revealed a 37-h mean teledermatology response-time versus a 14-day appointment wait (p < 0.00001). Teledermatologists provided a definitive care plan without in-person evaluation for 82 (65%) of completed consults and recommended interim treatments while awaiting appointments in 15 cases, thus accelerating care plan delivery in 97 cases (76%). The triage decision rate differed among diagnostic categories; deferral to in-person evaluation was more frequent for neoplasms (p < 0.0001). When PCPs specified preconsult treatment plans, 82% differed from teledermatologist-advised management. Following teledermatologist recommendations would have changed the clinical course in 70% of cases, potentially avoiding suboptimal care, including inappropriate corticosteroids, antimicrobials, and emergency room referrals.
Conclusions: We found teledermatology can effectively guide PCPs in resource-limited settings by accelerating delivery of dermatologist-recommended care plans for uninsured patients. Expanding teledermatology for PCPs in under-resourced clinics has the potential to improve treatment of cutaneous disease by nonspecialists and to mitigate suboptimal care for disadvantaged patients.