Teledermatology is the skin branch of telemedicine, which is the use of telecommunication technology to relay audio, visual, and data information. Teledermatology can be a valuable tool for patients and doctors, especially for patients in rural areas that may not have easy access to a dermatologist. Teledermatology can be used to determine which patients need additional follow-up by a dermatology clinic, to diagnose skin conditions, and to manage care for chronic skin conditions, like atopic dermatitis.1
There are two modalities for teledermatology: store-and-forward and live-interactive.
Store-and-forward is the sending (or forwarding) of digital images and patient
information to a distant site provider; or the sending of information back to the
Live-interactive is the patient sending images or interacting live directly with the
The benefits of teledermatology
Teledermatology offers several benefits, including:
Reducing healthcare costs: telemedicine reduces emergency room visits, which
significantly reduces healthcare costs. Teledermatology can also provide quality
care to patients at a lower cost.
Increasing access to medical care: teledermatology enables virtual consultations
with a dermatologist regardless of a patient’s geographic location.
Facilitating earlier diagnosis: teledermatology enables skin problems to be
addressed before they worsen or become more serious.
Aiding patient compliance: teledermatology can improve patient compliance with
recommended treatment and referral plans.2
The challenges of teledermatology
Teledermatology is an exciting field of medicine, and the number of practices offering these services is growing. However, there are some challenges. One of the critical factors is the quality of the images sent by patients. If the pictures aren’t of sufficient quality, including the lighting and focus of the image, the dermatologist doesn’t have the necessary information to provide a healthcare recommendation. Also, some healthcare plans aren’t yet equipped to reimburse for telemedicine services. Another challenge is the efficiency of the technology platform used by the dermatologist, which can impact both the doctor’s office and the patient.3
Patient satisfaction with teledermatology
Despite the challenges and the relative newness of the technology, studies have found that patients are very satisfied with teledermatology. One meta-analysis that evaluated 40 studies of telemedicine found that 96% of the studies that evaluated store-and-forward demonstrated patient satisfaction, and 89% of the studies that evaluated live-interactive demonstrated patient satisfaction. The physicians also showed a high satisfaction with the technology (82% satisfaction with store-and-forward and 100% with live-interactive).4
Warshaw E, Greer N, Hillman Y, et al. Teledermatology for Diagnosis and
Management of Skin Conditions: A Systematic Review of the Evidence [Internet].
Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2010 Jan. Available from:
American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed online on 9/5/17 at
Armstrong AW, Kwong MW, Ledo L, Nesbitt TS, Shewry SL. Practice models and
challenges in teledermatology: a study of collective experiences from
teledermatologists.PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28687. doi:
10.1371/journal.pone.0028687. Epub 2011 Dec 14
Mounessa JS, Chapman S, Braunberger T, et al. A systematic review of satisfaction
with teledermatology. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare. First published date:
March-28- 2017. doi: 10.1177/1357633X17696587.