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Br J Dermatol. 1998 Jul;139(1):81-7.

Comparison of teleconsultations and face-to-face consultations: preliminary results of a United Kingdom multicentre teledermatology study.

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1
Section of Dermatology, University of Manchester, Hope Hospital, Salford, U.K. egilmour@fs1.ho.man.ac.uk

Abstract

The objective of this multicentre study was to undertake a systematic comparison of face-to-face consultations and teleconsultations performed using low-cost videoconferencing equipment. One hundred and twenty-six patients were enrolled by their general practitioners across three sites. Each patient underwent a teleconsultation with a distant dermatologist followed by a traditional face-to-face consultation with a dermatologist. The main outcome measures were diagnostic concordance rates, management plans and patient and doctor satisfaction. One hundred and fifty-five diagnoses were identified by the face-to-face consultations from the sample of 126 patients. Identical diagnoses were recorded from both types of consultation in 59% of cases. Teledermatology consultations missed a secondary diagnosis in 6% of cases and were unable to make a useful diagnosis in 11% of cases. Wrong diagnoses were made by the teledermatologist in 4% of cases. Dermatologists were able to make a definitive diagnosis by face-to-face consultations in significantly more cases than by teleconsultations (P = 0.001). Where both types of consultation resulted in a single diagnosis there was a high level of agreement (kappa = 0.96, lower 95% confidence limit 0.91-1.00). Overall follow-up rates from both types of consultation were almost identical. Fifty per cent of patients seen could have been managed using a single videoconferenced teleconsultation without any requirement for further specialist intervention. Patients reported high levels of satisfaction with the teleconsultations. General practitioners reported that 75% of the teleconsultations were of educational benefit. This study illustrates the potential of telemedicine to diagnose and manage dermatology cases referred from primary care. Once the problem of image quality has been addressed, further studies will be required to investigate the cost-effectiveness of a teledermatology service and the potential consequences for the provision of dermatological services in the U.K.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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