Teledermatology in Primary Care in Singapore: Experiences of Family Doctors and Specialists
Aloysius Chow, Sok Huang Teo, Jing Wen Kong, Simon Biing Ming Lee, Yee Kiat Heng, Maurice A.M. van Steensel, Helen E. Smith
Most teledermatology studies focus on patients’ satisfaction; fewer focus on the experiences of healthcare professionals. This qualitative study explored healthcare professionals’ perceptions of teledermatology used for linking public primary care clinics with the specialist dermatology centre in Singapore. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 25 family physicians and dermatologists. Six themes were identified: satisfaction with the service; perceived patient benefits; rationale for introducing teledermatology; educational impact; challenges of virtual consultations; and desirable service refinements for the future. Family physicians and dermatologists were positive about the service, but highlighted a need to streamline referral processes and improve the quality of transmitted images. Reduced need for referral to the specialist centre could be achieved by expanding the polyclinic’s pharmacopoeia and treatment modalities. This study highlights the benefits of telemedicine for patient, professionals, and healthcare organizations, and these are reassuring given the widespread and rapid introduction of telemedicine through necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Few teledermatology studies report the experiences of healthcare professionals. In this study 25 family physicians and dermatologists were interviewed regarding their experiences of providing teledermatology service that enabled patients in primary care clinics to link with a specialist dermatology centre. Many benefits were identified, including: service satisfaction, patient benefits, educational opportunities, and future service refinements. Areas for improvement were also identified, including the referral processes, the quality of transmitted images, and the treatment available at the primary care clinics. This study highlights the benefits of telemedicine, which are reassuring findings as telemedicine becomes more widely used due to the COVID-19 pandemic.