Teledermatology for suspected skin cancer costs more than usual care—but it speeds up the time to clinical resolution by nearly a month, according to a study published online May 9 in JAMA Dermatology.
Teledermatology has the potential of reaching more patients than tradition care, but research into its economic impacts are lacking. In this study, researchers evaluated the cost-effectiveness of teledermatology as a referral mechanism for skin cancer diagnosis and management in Australia.
“At present, there are no published economic evaluations for teledermoscopy services specific to the Australian health care system, and there are few international studies available,” wrote lead author Centaine L. Snoswell, MPH, from the University of Queensland in Woolloongabba, Australia. “The implementation of new models of care requires information on their comparative cost-effectiveness.”
The research team compared the costs of an electronic referral with digital dermoscopic images to a written referral letter. They found teledermatology costs an average of $318.39, compared to $263.75 for usual care. While the cost per person was higher, physicians achieved clinical resolution an average of 26 days earlier for teledermatology patients.
“Using teledermoscopy for skin cancer referral and triage in Australia would cost $54.64 extra per case on average but would result in clinical resolution 26 days sooner than usual care,” wrote Snoswell and colleagues. “Implementation recommendations depend on the preferences of the Australian health system decision makers for either lower cost or expedited clinical resolution. Further research around the clinical significance of expedited clinical resolution and its importance for patients could inform implementation recommendations for the Australian setting.”