Digital dermatology: good for patients, good for insurers

29 april 2021 / Duncan Fisher

There is no doubt that telemedicine drives down the cost of healthcare. That’s reasonable to expect from the outset, because online services run cheaper than clinics and hospitals. Patients do away with travel costs and time off work, too.

Data coming in suggests an even bigger reason that telehealth is good for the purse strings: the medical outcomes are better.

This is true of people who are, or have been, in care. A pioneering study in 2012, for example, showed an association between web-based management of acute coronary syndrome survivors and improvement in their subsequent risk profiles. These patients were less likely than they would have been to return to hospital.

It’s also true of people who need treatment, but delay it for reasons that could be addressed by telemedicine. COVID fears keep people at home sometimes, when they should be seeing the doctor. Other times they face waiting queues that can last for months or even years. Untreated, some of their conditions can be expected to worsen.

That’s bad medicine, and it also means heavier costs when care finally does arrive. The nice thing about online consultations is that they happen right away – in fact, anywhere along a patient’s care journey, as many times as necessary. Add telemedicine to the mix, and you get lower likelihood of big, expensive intervention later on.

Dermatology is a particularly good example of this principle at work. Skin patients can be examined for most conditions by photograph or video link. Referral from there for in-person diagnosis, procedure, or medical management is easy if it’s needed -- and generally it isn’t. Snapmed dermatologists in Norway and Sweden are able to resolve 70% of their patients’ presenting problems by photo consultation, and 90% by video and follow-up.

That’s good medicine, and it’s good money-management for patients who pay out-of-pocket, and for insurers who, more and more, are adding digital medicine to their coverage portfolios for just these reasons.

Snapmed does partner very actively with insurers, to help keep their costs down. Insured Scandinavian patients get the quick access to dermatology care they need, and the cost of their cover, digital-cheap anyway, promises to stay low over time.

Service to the UK is now here as well. Along with direct-to-patient consultations, Snapmed has just opened the same prompt healthcare access to insurance patients all across Britain, and the very same cost-efficiency to their insurers.

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