New study investigates telehealth solutions for acne patients

A new study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has investigated the use of e-visits by acne patients experiencing a chronic form of the condition. The studied patients all took isotretinoin, which is a medication designed specifically to treat severe cases of acne. According to Reuters, the medication is notorious for producing a number of serious side effects, including mental health problems and gastrointestinal issues. Consequently, patients who are prescribed isotretinoin are required to check in with their primary care physician on a monthly basis and doctors are only permitted to prescribe the medication in monthly increments. 

What did the study find?
Researchers surveyed 62 adult users of isotretinoin, as well as the guardians of 42 acne patients under the age of 18. Patients were questioned about the extent to which they would be open to trying telehealth technology for their monthly doctor's visits. They were also asked about their feelings regarding the perceived safety and efficacy of the platform. The data was gathered during the middle of last year. The results revealed that the majority of the surveyed patients approved of the use of e-visits for the monthly check-ups.

Researchers found that the primary motivating factor for telehealth engagement from the acne patients was the time-saving quality of the service. A typical monthly visit to the physician is somewhat time-consuming, researchers found, and patients often had to miss time at school or work. The survey data revealed that patients felt that e-visits could help curtail the amount of time and income lost from the monthly check-ups.

Financial concerns
Despite the popularity of the telehealth platforms among the test group subjects, the data also revealed that surveyed patients would be unwilling to pay out of pocket for the privilege of the services. Study authors found that the average maximum that patients were willing to pay for the service was $25. On average, the e-visits themselves cost anywhere from $50-$60. As such, wide-scale implementation of telehealth services for acne patients may not be financially viable unless patients are willing to pay for the services.

Looking ahead
Researchers concluded by saying that telehealth platforms could be an effective time-saving solution for patients experiencing chronic acne and taking isotretinoin. The biggest roadblock to nationwide implementation is currently the high out-of-pocket costs for patients. Therefore, the study authors suggested that further research into e-visits and cost-saving solutions must be carried out before the technology can be employed on a wider scale.

Overall telehealth popularity continues to grow
The positive response from the surveyed acne patients to telehealth technology mirrors a growing trend nationwide: Telemedicine is popular and its implementation is increasing. Unsurprisingly, a recent study from Think Anthem uncovered that telehealth solutions are most widely utilized in rural areas when compared with urban locales. This is because telemedicine is an easier and more cost-effective way for remote patients to interact with physicians. 

Another recent study has also found that telemedicine is particularly useful in a school setting. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University and the University of Rochester analyzed the use of a school telemedicine system by 13, 812 student patients in upstate New York. The service connects school nurses with healthcare professionals remotely, as well as the parents of the sick child in question. The platform facilitates the exchange of data, such as images of the skin, nasal cavity and throat, which in turn enables the remote physician to make a diagnosis. Researchers found that in a majority of cases - over 95 percent - the remote doctor was able to make a successful primary diagnosis. Thus, the technology is proving successful in schools due to its effectiveness and time-saving qualities. 

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Kevin McCarthy's picture

Kevin McCarthy

Industry News Editor

An avid traveler and news junkie, Kevin covers a range of topics from healthcare technology to policy and regulations. As a former journalism student, he enjoys finding stories relevant to small practices and is passionate about keeping them informed. Before joining NueMD, Kevin worked for Turner Broadcasting as a Programming Intern where he conducted legal research and contributed to editorial content development. He received his bachelor's degree in Communication from Kennesaw State University and currently serves as the Industry News Editor at NueMD.

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