Implementing and Optimizing Inpatient Access to Dermatology Consultations via Telemedicine: An Experiential Study

Telemed J E Health. 2021 Jan;27(1):68-73. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2019.0267. Epub 2020 Apr 15.


Background/Introduction: In-house dermatology consultation services for hospitalized patients are not universally available in acute care hospitals. We encountered an unanticipated access gap for in-person dermatology consultations in our tertiary care hospital that routinely cares for complex high acuity patients with multiple comorbidities. To bridge this gap in specialist expertise in a timely manner, we expeditiously designed and implemented a telemedicine-supported inpatient dermatology consultation service. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of 155 teledermatology consultations conducted between November 2017 and March 2019 as well as periodic prospective multidisciplinary process improvement meetings to optimize service-associated process maps and workflows. Results: Teledermatology consultations changed the working diagnosis of the primary team in 52.3% of cases and most commonly recommended medical management (61.9% of cases). In total 100% of patients accepted telemedicine support and rated their experience as positive. The first three periodic process improvement meetings led to significant improvements in teledermatology-related process maps and workflows. Discussion: Diagnostic concordance rates between the primary team and the teledermatologist were similar to those reported in the literature for in-person dermatology consultations. Important process improvements include establishing central responsibility of preparing and overseeing the consultation process, mandating the presence of a primary team representative during consultation and patient chart review by the teledermatologist before teleconsultation. Conclusion: Inpatient teledermatology consultation services can be instituted timely and continuously improved to reliably and effectively bridge access gaps, improve diagnostic accuracy and differentiate therapeutic approaches while maintaining patient satisfaction.

Keywords: dermatology; e-health; teledermatology; telehealth; telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Dermatology*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Skin Diseases* / therapy
  • Telemedicine*