Dermatology diagnoses derived from photos are similar to those made in-office

According to a study conducted by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and published in JAMA Dermatology, parents that send high-quality photos from a smartphone camera of their child’s skin condition to dermatologists could skip the office visits and receive treatment through telehealth.

"Advances in smartphone photography, both in quality and image transmission, may improve access to care via direct parent-to-provider telemedicine," said Patrick McMahon, MD, pediatric dermatologist at CHOP and senior author of the study. "Our study shows that, for the majority of cases, parents can take photographs of sufficient quality to allow for accurate teledermatology diagnoses in pediatric skin conditions. This is important because pediatric dermatologists are in short supply, with fewer than 300 board-certified physicians serving the nation's 75 million children."

In the study, researchers enrolled 40 families to evaluate if photos of a child’s skin condition sent by parents are feasible in providing dermatologist with enough data to make accurate diagnoses. Researcher provided instructions to 20 families while the other 20 received no instructions. Diagnoses made form photographs were compared to diagnoses made during in-office visits.

Results showed that of the 87 images submitted, diagnoses matched in-office diagnoses 83 percent of the time. Only three photos did not lead to a diagnosis due to poor photo quality. However, the 37 families that provided high-quality images saw an 89 percent agreement in diagnoses form in-office visits.

"While many children's skin conditions can be handled without input from a pediatric dermatologist, the national shortage of specialists is a known barrier to accessing care,” concluded McMahon. “Our findings suggest that telemedicine could improve access for patient families who have geographic, scheduling or financial limitations, as well as reducing wait times."