Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Dermatology Appointment During COVID-19


Help keep your skin condition under control by meeting with your dermatologist online.Ekaterina Grigoreva/iStock

Here’s how to get the most out of your virtual visit with a dermatologist by taking advantage of telemedicine.

Even though your daily life may not look the same as it did in February, now isn’t the time to let up on caring for your health — including that of your skin. While your dermatologist has likely paused in-person visits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you can use telemedicine to meet with him or her virtually from the safety of your home.

COVID-19 and the Rise of ‘Teledermatology’

Telemedicine is a blanket term used to describe virtual doctor’s visits, whether they’re held via an app that offers its own providers or a video conferencing service through which you connect with an individual provider you’d typically meet in person.

Amid COVID-19, telemedicine has arguably gone mainstream. Medici, a telemedicine platform launched in 2016, has had a 1,409 percent increase in patient registration and a 1,822 percent increase in provider registration from March 15 to April 15, 2020, says Clint Phillips, CEO of Medici.

But with such a hands-on field of medicine, how is using telemedicine for dermatology appointments — or using “teledermatology,” as some people refer to it — possible?

“Our specialty is a visual field, and there are many skin conditions which are diagnosable from looks alone,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a Yale University–affiliated dermatologist based in New Haven, Connecticut. Yet there are limitations when it comes to what can get done through a quick video chat, phone call, or text messages — many conditions require a closer, hands-on approach. “We don’t have all of our tools, such as the dermatoscope, and some visits could necessitate further and immediate emergency testing,” she adds.

But it’s skin’s visual nature — and likewise, the manifestation of medical issues surrounding it — that lends itself to the growing practice of telemedicine. And while the COVID-19 epidemic has certainly propelled virtual care, dermatologists and medical staff are still adjusting to the brand-new (and often evolving, as a research letter to be published in the May 2020 issue of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology noted) guidelines for telemedicine in dermatology.