According to a recent study by the University of Missouri School of Medicine, roughly three in four parents consulted a telemedicine dermatologist got improved outcomes, and many of that patience had their previously incorrect diagnose reversed as well.
The main finding of the two-year study published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare in last September was that the Project ECHO program in Missouri not only helped 84 percent of adult cases and 72 percent of pediatric cases see better results – it helped primary care doctors in rural areas acquire the knowledge to better care for their patients.
“This program breaks the mold,” Jonathan Dyer, MD, professor and interim chair of the Department of Dermatology at the MU School of Medicine and the study’s co-author, said in a press release issued by MU. “These are real cases and real-life discussions. We believe this project will help doctors take the cases presented and apply them to others in their clinic. The patient will benefit from this program because they are provided the correct diagnosis at the correct time, right at the point of care, which will improve their outcome and reduce their cost and the expense incurred by the health system.
Incorrect diagnosis was one of the major problems that the study revealed according to the study 44% of adult cases and 27% of pediatric cases are incorrectly diagnosed, and another 20% and 27.5% were only partially diagnosed respectively.
However, after a telehealth consultation with a specialist, almost 84 percent of the adult cases and 72.5 percent of the pediatric cases resulted in improved outcomes.
The study particularly points to the challenges faced by PCP when serving in rural and underserved communities. This is especially true in dermatology, where only 10% of nations’ dermatologists work in rural areas.
“When it comes to skin cancer – which is the most common type of cancer in the United States – a timely diagnosis saves lives,” Becevic said in the press release. “Given the shortage of dermatologists in rural parts of the country, it is essential that we increase the PCPs skill in identifying patients with a high risk for skin cancer.”
“A lot of literature was pointing to the fact that residents and PCPs do not get enough training in dermatology, but a big part of their clinic is skin conditions,” she added. “We wanted to find out how much do the participating PCPs know about skin issues, how accurate are their diagnoses, and how accurate is their treatment? Our study results matched what we knew from the literature – that a majority of PCPs do not feel adequately prepared to diagnose and treat common skin conditions.”