Acne and Telemedicine by the Numbers

A look at the types of visits and treatments prescribed via teledermatology during the pandemic reinforces the staying power of virtual acne care; statistics offer key details.

During the height of the pandemic, telemedicine became a required medium to provide care. A 2021 study at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York1 and a 2022 letter from the University of Naples Federico II in Italy2 look at the types of patients with acne and treatments prescribed via telemedicine and in-person during the pandemic and how that compares to telemedicine use after restrictions eased. The retrospective analyses looked at primary visits from March to May of 2020 with follow up visits from June to December 2020 in New York and all visits from March 2020 to December 2021 in Naples. Findings were as follows:

  1. Patient demographics for both sites reflected a majority of female patients,higher in New York than in Italy (69.4% versus 64.8%);
  2. The mean age was younger (21.8) in Italy than in New York (27.7);
  3. Topical medications were preferred, comprising almost three quarters of treatments at both sites.
  4. After restrictions were lifted, telemedicine remained a popular choice for patients. “When New York State in‐person restrictions were lifted, telemedicine accounted for approximately half of acne follow‐ups and the majority of isotretinoin and spironolactone follow‐ups, suggesting that telemedicine will likely play a significant role in acne management beyond the pandemic. ” wrote Gu et al.1 “Furthermore, when the government's restrictive measures were reduced, 103 (48.3%) patients continued to prefer telemedicine visit with only 51.7% preferring face-to-face consultation,” added Luca et al;2
  5. Both cited the advantages of telemedicine in reducing barriers to healthcare access, but Gu et al caution that when treating female patients on isotretinoin, there is a lack of data assessing the safety and efficacy of telemedicine for this population. “iPLEDGE recently allowed for telemedicine with home urine pregnancy tests, with a noticeable shift from in‐person to virtual visits and from use of laboratory testing to home urine pregnancy tests,” the authors wrote. “Dermatologists should be cautioned that home urine pregnancy tests have variable sensitivity and require accurate user interpretation. Discrepancies may exist between manufacturer‐advertised accuracy and laboratory‐determined accuracy of home pregnancy tests, with one study reporting the agreement in accuracy ranging from less than 50% to greater than 90%, depending on the brand.”

References:

1.Gu L, Diaz SM, Lipner SR. Retrospective study of acne telemedicine and in-person visits at an academic center during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022;21(1):36-38. doi:10.1111/jocd.14606

2.Luca P, Fabbrocini G, Villani A. Letter to the editor regarding article "Gu L, Diaz SM, Lipner SR. Retrospective study of acne telemedicine and in-person visits at an academic center during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022;21(1):36-38." [published online ahead of print, 2022 Apr 23]. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022;10.1111/jocd.15018. doi:10.1111/jocd.15018