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Is visiting the dermatologist better online or in-person?

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Is visiting the dermatologist better online or in-person?
Is visiting the dermatologist better online or in-person?

by Kathleen Morrison, Lead Writer

March 8th, 2019

Like it or not, the internet has made it easier to stay connected to… well, pretty much everyone. Your friends, your family, your coworkers, every photo of your cousin’s best friend’s new baby for some reason. More and more, companies are taking advantage of the digital age by offering to connect you with one more person – your doctor. We know because Apostrophe is one of them. Apostrophe aims to make dermatology as accessible as possible through the power of the internet. But can an online visit really be just as good as sitting down with a dermatologist face to face?

Not just as good — better

When we started, our goal was to be “just as good.” We wanted to create a dermatology web-platform that is “just as good” as an in-person office visit; provide “just as good” of care, resources, follow-ups, and outcomes, and have the data to prove it. If the online experience could be “just as good,” we could deliver a more convenient experience at a lower cost than office visits.

After two years of trying to live up to traditional office visits, it became clear that for the conditions Apostrophe focuses on, online visits not only met the standards of in-person care, they exceeded them. How? There are three explicit advantages online visits offer over traditional visits: better communication, better measurement, and better access.

Better communication

If you’ve been to any doctor’s office, you know how it typically goes. You spend ages in the waiting room, followed by a brief visit with the actual doctor. Dermatologists are no different. They provide a diagnosis, the treatment, instructions for the treatment, and any other helpful skincare advice, all within the space of a few minutes. It’s easy to forget a lot of this info between leaving the office and picking up your treatment. Patients remember Consequently, this void is filled by asking the pharmacist, browsing the internet, or calling the doctor’s office.

By contrast, online visits provide patients with on-demand resources so they don’t have to remember. Each online visit includes a detailed analysis of the physician’s diagnosis, treatment instructions, and a specific action-plan to follow. This information is accessible 24/7 on your smartphone or computer.

Direct messaging

Online visits also offer direct and secure messaging between you and your dermatologist. This means you don’t need to self-diagnose side-effects or reactions to your treatment. Instead, you can message your doctor (with photos if you want!) and your derm will either provide a new treatment or, more often than not, a comforting message that such effects are expected and to stick with it.

Better measurement

Every visit on Apostrophe is visually documented as part of the online diagnostic process. Aside from the obvious necessity, these images have also provided external benefits to both you and your doctor.

  • For patients: You are able to see photos side-by-side in order to accurately judge how your skin or your hair is improving. Every single visit photo is recorded and available to you for such a comparison. This feature gives you feedback on the efficacy of your treatment — many patients are often surprised at their improvement from two or three months prior.
  • For doctors: When a patient comes back in for a follow-up, is it surprising that many dermatologists cannot specifically remember what the patient originally looked like? They depend on their charts and notes, which work okay. But words and diagrams don’t compare to a few high quality images.

Better access

If you call to schedule an office appointment, you’re likely to wait over three weeks for an opening. These figures illustrate a system where supply misses demand by a long-shot.

Asynchronous teledermatology is the answer.

Asynchronous means…not synchronous. As in not occurring simultaneously. Skype and phone calls are synchronous. Email and text messages are asynchronous. In dermatology, this translates to using images and text, as opposed to phone or video conferencing. Asynchronous care allows our derms to treat patients as it fits best in their workflow. For conditions like acne, most patients do not need to step foot into the office. Anyone with a smartphone or computer has access to care through online consultations. Teledermatology allows for more patients to be seen in more opportune times, in the most opportune medium.

Apostrophe set out to be “just as good,” but we ended up being able to improve the communication, measurement, and access of the modern doctor’s visit. If you haven’t been diagnosed via selfie yet, give it a try! Like us, you might find it works better than you expect. :)

Have a good experience with Apostrophe you’d like to share? Tweet us at @hi_apostrophe.

Welcome to the fine print! Just so you know, this article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. It’s always best to talk to a doctor for that stuff.