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December 2007

Teledermatology: Extending Specialty Care Beyond Borders

Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(12):1581-1582. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.12.1581

Telemedicine is the “use of telecommunications technology for medical diagnostic, monitoring and therapeutic purposes when distance and/or time separate the participants”1(p11) and includes distance learning. Practitioners of telemedicine in the dermatology community have created a body of research literature that is unsurpassed by any other specialty. These teledermatologists reported enhanced patient access to specialty care with decreased waiting time for consultation, good diagnostic reliability, and high patient satisfaction.2 Two types of telemedicine delivery platforms have been studied: (1) real-time teleconsultations using videoconferencing equipment and (2) store-and-forward teleconsultations, in which patient information and digital images are electronically sent to the specialist who at a later time evaluates the data and submits comments electronically to the referring physician. Each delivery platform has its strengths and weaknesses in terms of cost, ease of use, and time to complete the teleconsultation. Although a dermatologist cannot touch or smell a lesion at a distant location, the physician extender who presents the patient during a live interactive or a store-and-forward consultation can be trained to provide this information.

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