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22-04-2010 | Dermatology | Article

Online follow-up for acne patients as effective as clinic visits

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Deliverance of follow-up care to acne patients using an “e-visit platform” produces similar clinical results to conventional clinic visits, show study results.

“Ensuring timely access to high-quality care is currently a challenge for the stressed US healthcare system. Many specialties, including internal medicine, psychiatry and dermatology, are struggling to accommodate a growing demand for appointments owing to a critical shortage of healthcare providers,” the authors write in the Archives of Dermatology.

“One potential solution to these issues may be the adoption of innovative, technology-enabled models of care delivery.”

Alice Watson (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues assessed the efficacy of an e-visit online platform for follow-up of acne patients versus conventional visits to the dermatology clinic.

In total, 121 participants with mild-to-moderate facial acne took part in the study. The average age of the cohort was 28 years and 78% were female.

All participants had an initial office visit with one of five dermatologists taking part in the study before being assigned to take part in the online intervention (n=54) or form part of the control group (n=67; office visits). The patients were asked to attend four follow-up visits (online or office based) at 6-week intervals.

A set of three facial photographs were taken at each visit, initially by the researchers then by the patients (online group) or dermatologist (control group). The e-visits involved the patients taking and uploading three up to date images, completion of a set of disease-specific questions on a secure website, and provision of copayment via the website on submission of e-visit information.

The controls visited a dermatologist at 6-week intervals and had the same set of pictures taken as well as paying copayment at each visit.

Decrease in total inflammatory lesion count from baseline was very similar in both groups at 6.67 and 9.39, respectively, in the e-visit and office visit groups.

Both patients and dermatologists were comparably satisfied with both types of visit. The e-visits were found to be time saving for patients and time neutral for dermatologists (4–5 min for both types of visit).

“In this trial, delivering follow-up care to subjects with mild-to-moderate acne via office and online visits produced equivalent clinical outcomes by several different metrics,” the authors conclude.

“These findings suggest that dermatologists obtain sufficient information from digital images and survey responses to make appropriate management decisions in the treatment of acne. In addition, this model of care delivery was popular with both physicians and patients, likely owing to the convenience and/or time savings associated with e-visits.”

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Helen Albert