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Potential for misdiagnosis a concern in teledermatology


Some Oregon residents who lack insurance coverage turn to the Internet for medical help through websites that offer personal consultations without the high costs of office visits. Teledermatology is a subset of the telemedicine movement, allowing individuals to discuss their skin conditions while providing photographs and other pertinent information electronically. A study that has been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal targeted this area to identify whether this approach to treating dermatological conditions was safe or effective.

One of the greatest concerns raised because of the study was the potential for error with web-based interaction. The study used volunteers who posed as patients lacking insurance. The individuals involved provided details of their hypothetical cases, including photographs. In more than two-thirds of the test cases, the “patients” were not allowed to choose the treating professionals. Only one-fourth of the physicians reported their information about licenses to the patients. In two-thirds of these cases, prescriptions were issued, but warnings for important health risks of the medicines were not given in many cases.

The study noted a serious diagnostic failure with respect to several alleged conditions. However, those in charge of the research note that there is a challenge in knowing whether these medical professionals would have had better results in a person-to-person situation. Those who might rely on teledermatology or other forms of telemedicine to keep health care costs in check might benefit from realizing that there can be some serious shortcomings in this remote approach to treatment.

People who have suffered adversely because of a missed diagnosis might think about pursuing legal action against the provider It may be advisable in such a case to work with an attorney who has experience with these types of matters.