Using teledermatology to treat psoriasis

Teledermatology is Effective for Plaque Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes red, raised, scaly, and often itchy patches on the skin. These symptoms are caused by an overactive immune system, which causes skin cells to grow abnormally quickly.1 The dysfunctional immune response is also responsible for the redness, inflammation, and itchy symptoms associated with psoriasis.

The most common type of psoriasis is called plaque psoriasis, and it affects between 85% and 90% of people with the condition.2 Psoriasis does not have a cure, but it can be managed. The specific treatments that are most effective against psoriasis depend on the severity of the disease.2

Most people are treated using a combination of:

Shortage of dermatologists

In the United States, many people with chronic skin conditions like psoriasis do not have regular access to dermatologists. This is especially true in rural or other underserved areas or for people with mobility issues.3 In addition, demographic changes are leading to the aging of the American population, while at the same time, fewer dermatologists are entering the profession. This lack of dermatologic care could lead to worse clinical outcomes and reduced quality of life for people with inadequate medical attention.4

Availability of telemedicine

Teledermatology, the practice of consulting with an online dermatologist, continues to expand and provide access to health care professionals for people who need ongoing dermatology care, including those with psoriasis.

There are two main ways people use teledermatology:5

  • Store-and-forward: This consists of sharing photographs and does not have to happen in real time.
  • Live interactive: This happens like a real-time appointment over video conference.

These days more services rely on store-and-forward techniques, since the patient and provider do not need to be available at the same time, and the technology is easier and cheaper.6

Teledermatology is Effective for Psoriasis

A new study, conducted by April Armstrong, MD, MPH, of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, shows that teledermatology is as good, and in some cases better, at treating psoriasis than regular in-person appointments with a dermatologist.4 Previous studies have also shown that teledermatology can be used effectively for general dermatology care.7

The psoriasis study was funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.3 The investigators enrolled 300 patients and randomly assigned them to receive in-person or telemedicine appointments. Online visits involved either the primary care physician or psoriasis patient taking skin photographs. These were then uploaded to a website, where dermatologists could evaluate them and provide recommendations to the patient and the primary care physician at the same time.4

Better access to care and higher quality of life

This is encouraging news for people with psoriasis, who are at higher risk for developing other diseases and conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and Crohn’s Disease.8 Access to dermatologists through telemedicine will help people with psoriasis stay healthier and identify and treat additional diseases early, so they are in the best position to protect their health and maintain a higher quality of life.

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