You know what a dermatologist is — a doctor who treats skin conditions. (Dermatologists also treat hair and nail conditions.) And perhaps you’ve heard of telehealth, aka telemedicine. They let health practitioners assess, diagnose and treat patients from afar through telecommunications technology, such as video conferencing apps or secure telehealth websites. You can probably figure out, then, that teledermatology is the practice of dermatology from afar.
What is a teledermatology visit?
A teledermatology visit is a virtual appointment with a dermatologist or certified dermatology provider through a smartphone, tablet or internet-connected computer that has a camera and microphone. You can use a telederm visit to address any number of new or existing dermatology-related problems, from acne to rashes to suspicious growths, without leaving the house or missing work and without wasting time in the waiting room. Another bonus is the cost effectiveness: A teledermatology visit is often significantly cheaper than an in-office visit. (These visits are covered by most insurance plans, just like an in-office appointment.)
During the online visit, you and the provider can see and hear each other. You can discuss your current health situation, and you can show the provider any problem areas. You may be able to upload a digital image to the dermatology practice’s patient portal before the visit for the medical team to review before and during the visit.
If the provider decides you need to be seen in person, you can schedule that appointment after the telederm visit. In many cases, the cost of the telederm visit can be applied to that in-person appointment.
Conditions and symptoms that can be addressed
A wide variety of skin, hair and nail conditions can be assessed, diagnosed and treated through a teledermatology visit, including:
- Bug bites
- Contact dermatitis
- Cold sores
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Hair and nail disorders, including alopecia (hair loss)
- Skin cancer surgery (post-procedure follow-up)
In many cases, you can also get a prescription and refill through a teledermatology visit.
Conditions and symptoms that require an in-office visit
If you have a suspected melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, you will likely need a biopsy — a procedure that requires an in-office visit. You’ll also want to get annual, full-body skin cancer screenings in person if you have a history of melanoma.
Certain symptoms and conditions require immediate medical care at an emergency room or urgent care clinic, including but not limited to heavy bleeding, deep wounds or cuts, facial lacerations, a rash with fever, an allergic reaction that causes breathing trouble and a spider bite that causes extreme pain or other serious symptoms such as fever, nausea or weakness.
How to schedule a telederm visit
Article Written By: Marianne Wait, an award-winning health and wellness writer based in New Jersey.
Medical Review By: Ted Schiff, MD