An Investigation of Teledermatology Trends in the State of Texas: A Multicenter, Retrospective Cohort Review of an eConsult Service Line

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Background: An eConsult is a growing teledermatology tool that has the potential to address health disparities. Trends in teledermatology usage are still being defined in the context of the pandemic, postpandemic recovery, and a growing nonphysician primary care provider population.

Objective: The aim was to understand teledermatology utilization trends for asynchronous dermatology eConsults in the geographically expansive state of Texas.

Methods: This multicenter retrospective study examined the eConsult tool within a large, nonprofit health system, comparing characteristics of 893 eConsult visits with 27,189 in-person dermatology encounters from January 2022 to March 2023.

Results: When comparing the demographics of patients seen through eConsult versus traditional in-person visits, eConsults demonstrated a significantly higher prevalence of pediatric (22.5% vs. 7.6%, p < 0.001), Hispanic/Latino (20.5% vs. 10.4%, p < 0.001), African American (12.5% vs. 6.9%, p < 0.001), Asian (4.6% vs. 2.1%, p < 0.001), and American Indian (1.0% vs. 0.5%, p = 0.049) patients compared with in-person visits. eConsult users came from areas with a lower percentage of bachelor’s degree holders, reduced average household income, and an increased proportion of Medicaid and Tricare users. Physicians (MD/DO) submitted more eConsult cases than nonphysician providers (NPPs), with comparable diagnostic agreement with teledermatologists and similar recommendation rates for in-person dermatology visits.

Conclusions: While the limitation of this study was that it was a descriptive data analysis in a single health care system with limited generalizability, eConsults hold promise to broaden dermatologic access for underserved groups, especially children, individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, and Medicaid and Tricare members. While no significant diagnostic or referral differences were seen for eConsults initiated by primary care physician and NPPs, these changing trends should continue to be examined.



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