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Dermatologists Can Diagnose Cases Based on Pictures

Update Date: Feb 14, 2014 11:07 AM EST

As digital media continues to advance, medical appointments can change greatly within the near future. For people with troubling moles or rashes, sending a picture could substitute a trip to the dermatologist. According to a new but small study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, a dermatology practice called teledermatology has the potential to be as effective as an in-person appointment.

Teledermatology involves taking a picture of a worrisome skin condition and sending it to one's doctor. For this study, the research team recruited 50 volunteers who were all suffering from some kind of skin condition. They were over the age of 18 and stayed at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from September 2012 to April 2013. The participants had seen a doctor for an in-person examination. The researchers also took pictures of the skin conditions using an app called AcessDerm and sent them to two other board-certified dermatologists.

The researchers found that in 95 percent of the cases, the dermatologist that saw the skin condition in person and the other two doctors that saw the picture agreed that the patient needed a biopsy. The researchers reported that in 90 percent of the cases, the dermatologists regardless of how they saw the skin condition agreed that the patients should get more tests on the same day. The team also found that both sets of dermatologists partly agreed with the diagnosis 88 percent of the time and completely agreed 82 percent of the time.

"A substantial agreement between in-person and teledermatology consultants in this study demonstrates the reliability and potential of this platform," study author Dr. Misha Rosenbach, the director of the inpatient dermatology service at Penn Medicine, according to the University's press release.

Rosenbach added, reported by FOX News, "Across the country and the world there are places that have limited or no dermatology support. There are a lot of issues with having the right doctors in the right place to care for patients."

The researchers stated that even though the study was small, the findings are promising. Teledermatogoly can help with the shortage of dermatologists in the U.S. This type of practice can also lessen the load for dermatologists.

"[The AAD] supports telemedicine as a means of improving access to expertise of Board certified dermatologist and increasing safety, in addition to encouraging professionalism through patient care coordination and communication between other specialties and dermatology," the American Academy of Dermatology stated in a press release.

The findings were published in JAMA Dermatology.

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