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Is Teledermatology Effective? More Evidence Points to Yes.

With the rise of online services across industries, medicine has naturally followed suit. Despite lingering doubts about the diagnostic accuracy of teledermatology using images or videos, recent research supports its effectiveness. A new study highlights that even a cell phone picture can facilitate accurate diagnoses of skin conditions. Teledermatology, which encompasses virtual patient visits via video chat or photo assessments, provides a valuable resource for patients in remote areas, lacking local specialists, or facing mobility challenges. This approach not only enhances access to care but also streamlines the consultation process, offering convenience for both patients and healthcare providers.

The Pediatric Teledermatology Study 

Patrick McMahon, MD, and his team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia aimed to evaluate teledermatology’s effectiveness. They enrolled forty diverse families, ensuring equal gender representation and varying phone types (Apple iPhones and Android-based). In 2016, half of the families received photography instructions while the others did not. Overall, parents submitted eighty-seven images for remote diagnosis before an in-person consultation.

Study Results 

Upon review, only three images lacked sufficient quality for a conclusive diagnosis. Providing photography instructions did not significantly affect image quality. Among high-quality photos, teledermatology diagnoses matched in-person diagnoses 89% of the time. This indicates that dermatologists can often diagnose children’s skin conditions accurately from smartphone pictures, even without specific photography guidance.

Benefits of Pediatric Teledermatology 

Given the shortage of pediatric dermatologists in the US (less than 300 board-certified for over 75 million children), teledermatology offers a crucial solution. With 10-30% of pediatric visits for skin complaints, remote diagnosis could benefit rural families lacking local specialists. It also provides a cost-effective option for financially limited families and can reduce wait times in urban areas.

The Growth of Telemedicine 

Telemedicine is gaining popularity among physicians and patients alike. In 2016, 57% of primary care physicians considered offering virtual visits, and 64% of patients expressed interest in video appointments. By 2015, 42 states had enacted telemedicine legislation, with 29 states plus the District of Columbia mandating telemedicine coverage by health plans by 2016. Anticipated market growth suggests that by 2020, the global telemedicine market will increase by 14.3% annually, reaching a value of $36.2 billion, with seven million patients expected to use telemedicine services by 2018.

The Future of Telemedicine 

The growing use of telemedicine highlights its potential to enhance access to dermatological care, despite limitations for treatments like Restylane that require in-person assessments. While telemedicine may not replace all office visits, it promises to mitigate travel and wait times, increase healthcare access, and reduce costs.


In conclusion, the rise of teledermatology exemplifies how technological advancements are reshaping healthcare delivery. The Pediatric Teledermatology Study conducted by Patrick McMahon and his team underscores that dermatologists can effectively diagnose skin conditions using smartphone images, regardless of specific photography instructions. This capability is particularly crucial given the shortage of pediatric dermatologists in the US and the significant portion of pediatric visits related to skin issues.

Furthermore, telemedicine’s expanding popularity among both healthcare providers and patients reflects its potential to revolutionize healthcare access. Legislative support and market growth projections indicate a promising future for telemedicine, projected to reach a market value of $36.2 billion by 2020 with millions of patients benefiting from remote healthcare services.

While telemedicine may not replace every in-person visit, it offers substantial benefits: reducing geographical barriers, easing financial burdens, and improving efficiency in healthcare delivery. As the field continues to evolve, embracing technologies like telemedicine can enhance patient care, making healthcare more accessible and effective for all.

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