The telehealth market is skyrocketing during the COVID-19 crisis. Many people are preferring to meet remotely to get their common medical needs diagnosed, not wanting to risk exposing themselves to the virus by visiting the doctor.
Healthcare providers are having to rethink their practices during this time. Some medical professionals are using telehealth appointments as a way to diagnose minor health issues or as a way to do an initial consultation before requiring an in-person appointment.
One healthcare field where telehealth is becoming increasingly common is dermatology. This is because many common skin conditions can be diagnosed visually on camera.
Evolving technology allows for virtual appointments
For some healthcare professionals, transitioning to telehealth has posed challenges as they’ve had to rethink many common practices. However, dermatology is one of the health fields where telehealth was already common before the coronavirus pandemic.
Many dermatology clinics such as Walk-in Dermatology have offered video appointments as an alternative to in-person visits for several years. This is because devices such as smartphones and tablets allow people to take high-quality photos or video footage of their skin problem, which the dermatologist can look at to determine if the condition is benign or if it requires treatment.
In some cases, an in-person follow-up to a virtual appointment might be necessary, but telehealth appointments are great for initial consults.
Benefits of telehealth appointments
One benefit of telehealth appointments is that they cut down on the number of people that physically have to visit the doctor. Especially right now during the coronavirus pandemic, telehealth appointments limit the risk of exposure.
Another benefit of telehealth appointments is that they offer flexibility for patients who might not be able to physically visit the doctor, allowing patients that might not have access to a car or might not be able to take off work still have access to needed healthcare.
Another benefit is that medical professionals can teach patients better self-care practices. For example, a dermatologist can ask the patient to physically show them what products they’re using during their skincare routine.
Diagnosing dermatological conditions virtually
Typically, a dermatologist will ask the patient to send them photos of the skin problem before the meeting. This is because photos tend to be higher-quality than videos. However, patients need to remember to not use filters on their photos. Then, during the actual telehealth appointment, video footage might be collected. If needed, the dermatologist can also prescribe medication that the patient can pick up at their local drugstore.
In some cases, such as if the patient is concerned about sunspots, the telehealth appointment serves as an initial consultation. The dermatologist must then determine if an in-person follow-up is needed.
What patients should expect
Before the appointment, the dermatologist will typically ask the patient to send photos of their skin condition. The patient may also be asked to describe what they’re experiencing and if they notice any patterns, such as only breaking out in hives after eating a certain type of food.
On the day of, the patient should find a quiet area where they can talk without interruption. The dermatologist will discuss the patient’s skincare routine, ask for details about what they’re experiencing, and ask the patient to show them the problem area.
Afterward, the dermatologist will either go over ways that the patient can improve their skincare routine, write a prescription, or schedule an in-person follow-up appointment.
Limitations to telehealth appointments
Of course, there are limitations to telehealth appointments. There are certain medical procedures, such as drawing blood, that need to happen in-person. Some skin conditions that can’t be treated virtually include animal bites, infected wounds, and diabetic foot ulcers.
Another limitation is that some people might not have the right technology to participate in telehealth appointments. If they have a spotty internet connection, it could go out in the middle of the appointment. Or, they might own a device that doesn’t allow for high-quality photos or videos.
Another limitation is that medical professionals haven’t adapted to new, innovative technology. They might be willing to try telehealth appointments but might not have the resources to do it properly.
When it comes to telehealth, there is still a lot to be learned about best practices. Whether or not telehealth appointments will continue to be so popular after the coronavirus pandemic is over is yet to be known, however, virtual appointments are certainly making it easier for some individuals to get the healthcare that they need.