Teledermatology during the COVID-19 pandemic: experience at a tertiary care center in north India

Dermatol Ther. 2021 Jun 5:e15022. doi: 10.1111/dth.15022. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Teledermatology has evolved as a valuable option to outpatient visits during the current pandemic. We set up a smartphone-based hybrid model of teledermatology services providing direct care to patients at our center.

OBJECTIVE: To analyze patient and physician-experience and acceptability for teledermatology over a 6-month-period, along with clinicodemographic profile of patients.

METHODOLOGY: Single-center, retrospective study conducted from May 20, 2020 to October 31, 2020. Patient satisfaction level for teledermatology was assessed on a 4-point scale and compared with the satisfaction level during their previous physical visits prior to COVID-19 pandemic. A physician assessment form was utilized to record the experience of dermatologists while providing teledermatology services.

RESULTS: Of 7530 patients registered, a successful consult was provided to 6125 patients (81.34%). Average number of teleconsultations/ day rose from 23.60 in May 2020 to 77.96 in October 2020. Mean age of patients availing teledermatology services was 33.60 ± 16.99 years. Average distance to care and travel time were 100.90 ± 171.77 kilometers and 135 ± 222.32 minutes respectively. A definitive diagnosis could be ascertained in 5724 patients (93.45%) and in-person visit was recommended to 133 patients (2.2%). Out of 6125 patients, 5229 could be contacted for feedback, 935 (18.18%), 2230 (42.65%), 1749 (33.45%) and 300 patients (5.70%) reported being very satisfied, satisfied, partially satisfied and unsatisfied, respectively. Of 1914 patients, who had availed in-person OPD facilities prior to the pandemic, 914 patients (49.62%) preferred in-person visits. Of 34 dermatologists surveyed, 88.2% felt comfortable providing teleconsultations and 82.4% felt the need to continue teledermatology services in the upcoming months.

CONCLUSION: Overall, teledermatology is a valid alternative for in-person dermatology visits during the current crisis; helping with initial triage and further patient management. Further refinement of the process could lead to even more acceptability. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

PMID:34089561 | DOI:10.1111/dth.15022