What to expect when you're expecting an online dermatologist
Virtual healthcare is a big buzz right now, thanks to the increasing ubiquity of web-enabled devices. Dermatologic care is ideal for such solutions, due to its "visual" nature combined with the general population's adeptness at taking "selfies."
Fun fact: Dermatologists-in-training heavily use photographic images to better understand and accurately diagnose skin, hair/scalp, and nail conditions!
When you opt to see a dermatologist through an online visit, here are a few things you can expect – and some tips to make it successful:
- Provide pertinent medical history. Many dermatologic conditions can be caused or exacerbated by other underlying conditions, such as diabetes or metabolic conditions, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson's disease, forms of anemia, and many more illnesses. It's important that even the "online dermatologist" is made aware of your medical background to help them form a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for you.
- Snap some good photos of what's going on. The online dermatologist will benefit from really good "skin selfies" that show multiple angles of your current complaint. This is not the time to use those fancy filters and photos effects! Make sure there's good lighting; get some close-ups and distance shots (if appropriate) from a few different viewpoints; get a friend or family member to help, if needed. Good digital photos will help the doctor make the best diagnosis possible.
- Make sure your information will be treated securely. As the number of online healthcare apps grows, it's important that you verify those services offered in the U.S. disclose whether or not they are HIPAA and HITECH compliant – these are national standards for the privacy of protected health information, security of electronic health information, and notifying consumers of any breaches.
- Check if your state is covered. Some states may also have restrictions around prescribing medications through an online visit. The good news though is that most U.S. residents can enjoy such online conveniences with no issues, and that number continues to grow as states revisit their policies. Our advice is to use a service like DermatologistOnCall.com which covers 50 states including DC– the most of any derm-focused app service today, with over 100 board-certified dermatologists on the site.
- Yes, you should be able to ask a follow-up question. After you receive your diagnosis and treatment plan electronically from your online dermatologist visit, you may have an additional question or two for the doctor, as you would in a normal in-office visit. Be sure to use a service that allows you to ask a few follow-up questions. DermatologistOnCall, for example, allows you to send follow up questions for 30 days to the same doctor following your online visit.
- You might be referred to make an in-office visit. When the online dermatologist sees your photos and reviews your medical history and description of the condition, they may feel it's medically necessary to refer you for an in-office appointment. Don't panic! It may be that they need to do something that requires you to be there "in the flesh," such as doing a routine skin biopsy or skin scraping. The good news is that you will likely be fast-tracked in the scheduling queue, in order to resolve the diagnosis faster.
Many online and mobile apps now exist for convenient, time-saving healthcare treatment. It's up to you as a patient to make sure you are using a service that's reputable, uses board-certified dermatologists, and doesn't take too many short-cuts in understanding your medical situation and patient needs.
Got a condition you want to treat now? Visit www.DermatologistOnCall.com to get started right away.
If you're a board-certified dermatologist interested in learning about online visits through our platform, request a presentation & demo.