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17-03-2011 | Article

Telecommunications technology benefits elderly dermatology patients

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Teledermatology may be a useful way of diagnosing and treating skin disease in elderly people who lack easy or direct access to dermatologists, Italian study findings show.

The researchers assessed the potential benefits of a method of teledermatology called "store-and-forward," which involves the transmission of medical images by the patient to the dermatologist using telecommunications technology.

They compared the diagnoses made using this method with those made during face-to-face dermatological examinations.

A total of 130 elderly patients, aged between 66 and 97 years, with skin diseases requiring dermatological examination participated in the study.

Their conditions were examined by three dermatologists who took turns to diagnose the patients through face-to-face examinations and via teledermatology.

The results showed "almost perfect agreement" between the two methods of diagnosis, with the same diagnosis made for 114 patients, giving a total agreement of 88%.

The most common conditions were benign and malignant skin growths (56%), with cancer of the skin or lips the most frequent condition encountered (25%), followed by senile warts (14%), and actinic keratosis (11%). Diagnosis of these skin growths by teledermatology was extremely good, with a respective 84%, 94% and 93% of patients correctly diagnoses using this technique.

Agreement about whether or not to prescribe treatment between face-to-face and teledermatology examinations was also high. And there was a 70% agreement in the type of therapies prescribed.

"Substantial" agreement was found between skin diseases requiring systemic and local therapy and "almost perfect" agreement for lesions requiring surgery, P Rubegni, from the University of Siena, and colleagues report in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

However, the dermatologists were slightly less confident of their diagnosis when it was made by teledermatology than when it was made face-to-face.

Nevertheless, the effectiveness of teledermatology leads the researchers to conclude that it "can improve diagnostic and therapeutic care for skin disease in elderly who lack easy and/or direct access to dermatologists."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Lucy Piper