Teledermatology is a topical clinical approach being tested in Australia and elsewhere. With most dermatologists residing in metropolitan areas, teledermatology provides an apparent low-cost and convenient means of access for individuals living outside these areas. It is important that any proposed new addition to a health care system is assessed on the grounds of economic cost and effectiveness.
To summarize and evaluate the current economic evidence comparing store-and-forward teledermatology (S&FTD) with conventional face-to-face care.
Search terms with appropriate amendments were used to identify S&FTD articles that included economic analysis. Six databases were searched, and title, abstract and full-text reviews were conducted by 2 researchers. References of all unique returned articles were searched by hand. The Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS) checklist was used to evaluate quality of the included articles.
Eleven articles were selected for inclusion, including 1 cost analysis, 4 cost-minimization analyses, 4 cost-effectiveness analyses, and 2 cost-utility analyses. CHEERS scores ranged from 7 to 21 out of a possible 24 points, with a median score of 17.
Conclusions and Relevance
Current evidence is sparse but suggests that S&FTD can be cost-effective. It appears to be cost-effective when used as a triage mechanism to reduce face-to-face appointment requirements. The cost-effectiveness of S&FTD increases when patients are required to travel farther distances to access dermatology services. Further economic research is required for the emerging S&FTD, which uses dermoscopes in combination with smartphone applications, as well as regarding the possibility and consequences of patients self-capturing and transmitting images.