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June 2016

Cost-effectiveness of Store-and-Forward Teledermatology: A Systematic Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Pharmacy, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • 2Centre for Online Health, The University of Queensland, School of Medicine, Brisbane, Australia
  • 3Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland, School of Medicine, Translational Research Centre, Brisbane, Australia
  • 4Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
  • 5Centre of Research Excellence for the Study of Naevi, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • 6Department of Dermatology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Australia
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(6):702-708. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.0525

Importance  Teledermatology is a topical clinical approach being tested in Australia and elsewhere. With most dermatologists residing in metropolitan areas, teledermatology provides an apparent low-cost and convenient means of access for individuals living outside these areas. It is important that any proposed new addition to a health care system is assessed on the grounds of economic cost and effectiveness.

Objective  To summarize and evaluate the current economic evidence comparing store-and-forward teledermatology (S&FTD) with conventional face-to-face care.

Evidence Review  Search terms with appropriate amendments were used to identify S&FTD articles that included economic analysis. Six databases were searched, and title, abstract and full-text reviews were conducted by 2 researchers. References of all unique returned articles were searched by hand. The Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS) checklist was used to evaluate quality of the included articles.

Findings  Eleven articles were selected for inclusion, including 1 cost analysis, 4 cost-minimization analyses, 4 cost-effectiveness analyses, and 2 cost-utility analyses. CHEERS scores ranged from 7 to 21 out of a possible 24 points, with a median score of 17.

Conclusions and Relevance  Current evidence is sparse but suggests that S&FTD can be cost-effective. It appears to be cost-effective when used as a triage mechanism to reduce face-to-face appointment requirements. The cost-effectiveness of S&FTD increases when patients are required to travel farther distances to access dermatology services. Further economic research is required for the emerging S&FTD, which uses dermoscopes in combination with smartphone applications, as well as regarding the possibility and consequences of patients self-capturing and transmitting images.

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