"Selfies", or self-portraits taken by one's self, may be the next breakthrough in dermatology care. A new study has found that taking a photo of a skin lesion and sending it to your personal dermatologist for analysis is as effective as in-office visits.
The study, led by Dr. April Armstrong of the University of Colorado, found that patients' eczema improved regardless of the method of consultation with their doctor- whether it was seeing the doctor personally or communicating online.
Dermatology expert Dr. Gary Goldenberg of New York City, who is not connected to the study, says that the new technology "gives patients another valuable option of communicating with their doctors."
Dr. Armstrong and colleagues' study involved 156 adults and children with eczema. Seventy eight of them received conventional in-person, follow-up care, and the other 78 received online follow-up care. Patients in the online group took pictures of their skin outbreaks and sent them to their dermatologists, who then made evaluations, treatment recommendations, and medicine prescriptions based on the pictures sent.
After one year of either online or in-person care, it was found that there was no significant difference in terms of clearance or near clearance of eczema in both the in-person care group and the online care group.
The researchers conclude that their findings suggest how online dermatology services could help improve access to care in the United states, especially during these times when there are not enough dermatologists to meet demand.
Dr. Goldenberg believes that web-based care would benefit patients living in the rural areas or those with transportation issues.
Meanwhile, Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, stresses the big role of office visits in patient care, particularly for conditions like atopic dermatitis and other chronic skin problems. Such conditions have a "strong emotional component," she says, adding that an office visit builds physician-patient relationship and helps identify other underlying problems like depression, which could hinder treatment and skin care regimen compliance.