To determine the relative efficacy of store-and-forward teledermatology vs face-to-face dermatology consultations in triage decisions about the need for a biopsy of neoplastic skin changes.
Prospective study of consecutive patients judged by an internist to require dermatologic consultation for a skin growth.
Private primary care and dermatology practices and an academic dermatology practice.
Patients requiring dermatology consultation for evaluation of skin growths. Patients were seen by a single primary care physician between July 10, 1998, and August 4, 2000.
Digital photographs of skin growths were obtained by the primary care physician and evaluated by a teledermatologist. The patient was then seen face-to-face by a dermatologist. A biopsy was performed if either dermatologist favored biopsy.
Main Outcome Measures
Decisions to perform a biopsy. Agreement between the dermatologists was assessed.
Of the 49 patients with evaluable photographs, the face-to-face dermatologist and teledermatologist recommended a biopsy for the same 26 patients, yielding a sensitivity of the teledermatologist of 1.00 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.87-1.00) and a specificity of 1.00 (95% CI, 0.85-1.00). The agreement between the dermatologists (κ) was 1.00 (95% CI, 0.72-1.00).
Store-and-forward teledermatology may provide an accurate and cost-effective method of determining whether skin growths in patients presenting to primary care physicians should undergo biopsy.