Using Network Oriented Research Assistant (NORA) Technology to Compare Digital Photographic With In-Person Assessment of Acne Vulgaris

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ImportanceTeledermatology has undergone exponential growth in the past 2 decades. Many technological innovations are becoming available without necessarily undergoing validation studies for specific dermatologic applications.ObjectiveTo determine whether patient-taken photographs of acne using Network Oriented Research Assistant (NORA) result in similar lesion counts and Investigator’s Global Assessment (IGA) findings compared with in-person examination findings.Design, Setting, and ParticipantsThis pilot reliability study enrolled consecutive patients with acne vulgaris from a single general dermatology practice in Los Angeles, California, who were able to use NORA on an iPhone 6 to take self-photographs. Patients were enrolled from January 1 through March 31, 2016. Each individual underwent in-person and digital evaluation of his or her acne by the same dermatologist. A period of at least 1 week separated the in-person and digital assessments of acne.InterventionsAll participants were trained on how to use NORA on the iPhone 6 and take photographs of their face with the rear-facing camera.Main Outcomes and MeasuresReliability of patient-taken photographs with NORA for acne evaluation compared with in-person examination findings. Acne assessment measures included lesion count (total, inflammatory, noninflammatory, and cystic) and IGA for acne severity.ResultsA total of 69 patients (37 male [54%] and 32 female [46%]; mean [SD] age, 22.7 [7.7] years) enrolled in the study. The intraclass correlation coefficients of in-person and photograph-based acne evaluations indicated strong agreement. The intraclass correlation coefficient for total lesion count was 0.81; for the IGA, 0.75. Inflammatory lesion count, noninflammatory lesion count, and cyst count had intraclass correlation coefficients of 0.72, 0.72, and 0.82, respectively.Conclusions and RelevanceThis study found agreement between acne evaluations performed in person and from self-photographs with NORA. As a reliable telehealth technology for acne, NORA can be used as a teledermatology platform for dermatology research and can increase access to dermatologic care.

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