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PLoS One. 2018 Sep 24;13(9):e0204545. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204545. eCollection 2018.

Tele-expertise for diagnosis of skin lesions is cost-effective in a prison setting: A retrospective cohort study of 450 patients.

Author information

URC Eco Ile-de-France, AP-HP, Paris, France.
Department of Public Health, Henri Mondor-Albert Chenevier Hospitals, AP-HP, Créteil, France.
Department of Dermatology, Victor Dupouy Hospital, Argenteuil, France.
Department of Dermatology, Saint Louis Hospital and Université Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, AP-HP, Paris France.
André Mignot Hospital, Versailles, France.
Faculty of Medicine, University Paris-Est Créteil, Créteil, France.



The prevalence of skin diseases among prisoners is higher than in the general population. Diagnosing and treating these lesions require a dermatologic advice. A tele-expertise network in dermatology for prisoners including 8 health facilities in prison and 2 hospital dermatological departments was developed to improve access to dermatologists' expertise in correctional facilities. Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness and costs of tele-expertise in dermatology for prisoners.


We carried out a retrospective cohort study on data collected by the information system of the tele-expertise network. We used the MAST (Model for ASsessment of Telemedicine) model to perform a multidimensional assessment including the proportion of patients with a completed treatment plan for the skin lesions, the proportion of technical problems, the quality of the pictures, the investment and operating costs and the satisfaction of the professionals.


Mean patient age was 34.2 years with 90% men. 511 requests for 450 patients were initiated. The delay from the connection to the tele-expertise software to the validation of the request was inferior to 7 min for 50% of the requests and inferior to 30 min for 85% of the requests. Overall, with tele-expertise, 82% of the patients had a completed treatment plan for the skin lesions, with 2.9% of all patients requiring a later face-to-face appointment or hospitalization, to be compared to a proportion of 35% of patients with a completed treatment plan when tele-expertise was not available. The most frequent lesions were acnea (22%) and atopic dermatitis (18%). The mean cost for one completed treatment plan was €184 by tele-expertise and €315 without tele-expertise. Tele-expertise was well accepted among physicians with all responders (n = 9) willing to continue using it.


Tele-expertise is a dominant intervention in comparison to a face-to face consultation taking into account the cost of transportation and the proportion of canceled appointments and is acceptable for physicians.



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