A few suggestions from a patient support organisation in Australia, as services across the globe become more attuned to telemedicine.
With the arrival of Covid-19, telemedicine has been in great demand, with risk from contact removed and convenience enhanced. Dermatology is particularly suited to video consultation, as this covers a visible part of your body.
Whilst further investigation, or treatment could require an in clinic visit, this may not be needed. Even where significant conditions, such as skin cancers are involved, an initial diagnosis can save valuable time.
Along with prompt attention, getting the best from your teledermatology appointment can still benefit from a little preparation.
Before Your Appointment
Most medical insurance providers have updated their cover to include telemedicine but worth checking if there is any doubt.
If you are a new patient, having your medical information to hand could help:
- Medication you take, dosages and times of day.
- Past illnesses, any surgery you have undergone.
- Previous dermatological conditions of any kind.
- Allergies you are aware of, or were tested for.
- Your current symptoms and when they appeared.
You may have been asked to offer this information in advance, along with medical conditions which run in your family. Having the details available can still help the online conversation and serve as a reminder, for any questions you wish to ask.
The appointment is yours and time should be taken on aspects you want to be covered. Better to make a note of these before the appointment, symptoms you wish to mention, any queries you have.
If you would prefer to have a friend, or relative in the room with you, this is not a problem and is worth arranging in advance.
We will let you know about the practical requirements to join a video consultation, although a little experience helps you feel relaxed. If you have never used a video link, why not have a trial run with a member of your family.
This will also confirm that the devices you own are suited to the task, a reasonably up to date PC with a video camera, or a pad, or mobile are normally fine. On smaller devices, you may need to download and install an app.
Normal video resolution will often be all that is needed, although there are occasions when sharing a close up image will help. Try taking a few digital images of yourself, to judge the best distance and lighting.
Above all, don’t be too concerned about technical needs. Millions of video calls are made every day, not least during the coronavirus pandemic, the technology is well proven and easy to use.
Forwarding images of relevant areas of your skin before, or possibly during a teledermatology appointment can add to a consultant’s view. They do not have to be in any particular format, although a few points will assist:
- Try to ensure the images are clear and well lit.
- Avoid direct glare, or shadows where possible.
- Take multiple images of areas to be examined.
- Comparative images of unaffected areas can help.
- Ask a friend or family member to assist if you wish.
Removing make up before taking the images is worthwhile and leaving the skin as this would normally be. Having a hot shower, or using skin care products just before taking images may seem rational but this could change appearance.
If you are unable to take images, or simply do not wish to, don’t worry, teledermatology is a visual link in itself.
Part Of Ongoing Care
As with any consultation, the meeting over video is just part of our team being connected to and supporting patients. The end of your video call may be the start of helpful treatment, or further diagnosis where this is needed.
Medication can be organised when required, safe clinic visits arranged if this is best for you. Your consultant will remain in touch by other routes and can keep you informed through follow up emails.
The digital world gives us great ways to share information, although shouldn’t remove personal care. Our best tip for teledermatology is don’t forget to just be yourself, our consultants will be the same people you would normally meet.