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What Type of Dermatological Conditions Is Telemedicine the Most Helpful In?

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The field of telemedicine has changed drastically from its inception. It was only about fifty years ago that a few hospitals started experimenting with telemedicine to reach patients in remote locations. But with the rapid changes in technology over the last few decades, telemedicine has transformed into a complex integrated service used in hospitals, homes, private physician offices, and other healthcare facilities

The concept of telemedicine started with the birth of telecommunications technology, the means of sending information over a distance in the form of electromagnetic signals.

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Telemedicine (e‐health) involves the use of telecommunication technologies to exchange medical information for diagnosis, consultation, treatment and teaching. The omnipresence of personal computers, digital photography and the internet that has evolved since the last decades of the past century and of smartphones after the turn of the millennium has brought about a revolution in telemedicine. While this was initially limited to research questions, it has found its way into routine clinical practice in recent years

Given that dermatology is a uniquely visual medical specialty, it is particularly suited for telemedical diagnosis and consultation. Two forms of technology are primarily deployed in teledermatology 3: i) store‐and‐forward (SAF) technology where clinical images and additional information are assessed at a different time and location (asynchronous communication method), and ii) video conferencing which is characterized by simultaneous image‐based diagnosis and consultation. Teledermatology consultations can take place between physicians from different specialties (teleconsult) or directly with patients (teleconsultation). A recent systematic review showed that teledermatology has been used in a wide variety of dermatological diagnoses, with a particular focus on the diagnosis of skin cancer. The majority of studies originate from countries with an unequally distributed density of dermatologists and large geographical distances, such as the USA, or countries with a low density of specialists, such as the United Kingdom.

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Interestingly, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), when first established, launched further research and development into the area of telemedicine with their newly operative, space-bound astronauts. As novice and precautious explorers in the unpredictable and uncharted territory beyond Earth’s boundaries, astronauts naturally were required, by NASA, to receive constant monitoring of their physical and mental statuses (Cermack, 2006). Through NASA’s sophisticated designs and efforts, the crew’s special suits (those that enabled them to exit the spacecraft and enter outer space) contained devices that continuously checked and reported their physiological conditions via communication satellites. In this way, NASA could successfully act as distance, supervisors to their astral voyagers, especially with a well-staffed team of medical technicians at their disposal and exclusive to monitoring the astronauts in their delicate surroundings and conditions (Cermack, 2006).

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In sum, as the adoption of telemedicine systems requires the acceptance of users involved in the process, this finding may indicate a lack of awareness of, or comfort in, the use of telemedicine systems

As a result, global and concerted advocacy on the benefits and the appropriate use of telemedicine would help address fears or resistance towards technology use and accelerate its adoption among health professionals and patients alike.

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Monitoring and telemedicine support in remote environments and in human space flight. Cermack M Br J Anaesth. 2006 Jul; 97(1):107-14.

Nelson E, Barnard M, Cain S. Feasibility of telemedicine intervention for childhood depression. Counseling & Psychotherapy Research. 2006

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