The French government imposed the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown from March 17 until May 11, 2020. Only emergency cases and teledermatology (TD) were allowed in outpatient settings. A standardized questionnaire was developed to compare the satisfaction level of patients and their treating physicians. Our main question was whether the patients would perceive TD as a valid alternative for direct physical face-to-face consultation. Eighty-two patients and their 4 treating dermatologists from one dermatology department participated in the study (43 females, 39 males) with a mean age of 46.6 years (SD ±23.9). The reason for TD was a chronic disease in the majority (87.8%), and mainly as a follow-up (96.3%). Regarding satisfaction, almost all categories rated around 9 on a 0-10 verbal analogue scale. The same level of global satisfaction could be seen between the patients and the physicians as well as for the quality of the patient-physician relation and whether all questions could be addressed during the TC. Physicians showed significantly higher scores than patients only for the category of “length” of the consultation. Gender, age, as well as distance between the clinic and home of the patient were not influencing factors for satisfaction. Regarding the technical parameters, the evaluation was mostly comparable for patients and physicians, but overall lower than the relational satisfaction parameters, especially for image quality. Patients were significantly more motivated to continue the TD after the lockdown than their treating dermatologists. We see an interest for implementing TD in specialized centers with chronic patients coming from remote places for regular follow-ups. TD cannot replace in-person patient-physician interaction, but was helpful during the lockdown. As a result, TD might become part of dermatology training to prepare for future lockdown situations.
About The Expert
Joachim W Fluhr