webVisits for acne

The Boston Globe reports that acne patients will soon be able to conduct follow-up visits with Boston area dermatologists via the web. (Online house calls offered to acne patients.)Dermatology is a good candidate for the use of webVisit technology. Much of the assessment is done visually, physicians are pressed for time, and they are business oriented and therefore open to new technology that offers a return on investment.

It’s somewhat hard to believe, but patients in Boston experience the longest waits in the country to see a specialist, according to Merritt, Hawkins. For dermatology the average wait is 50 days!

I’m a wholehearted proponent of online doctor/patient messaging; it can help improve access and reduce wait time. I’ve consulted to RelayHealth for the past few years and think the technology is great. But in this case I am a bit worried that doctors may begin to use the technology to keep less profitable patients out of their offices. As dermatologists move toward providing high margin cosmetic treatments they may try to reduce the attention they offer to acne and other less lucrative patients. That’s not so great for patients. I’d like to see a fundamental re-engineering of physician offices to increase throughput. webVisits are a part of the solution, but not the whole story.

August 7, 2005

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