Cost-effectiveness of Skin Cancer Referral and Consultation Using Teledermoscopy in Australia

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Abstract

Importance

International literature has shown that teledermoscopy referral may be a viable method for skin cancer referral; however, no economic investigations have occurred in Australia.

Objective

To assess the cost-effectiveness of teledermoscopy as a referral mechanism for skin cancer diagnosis and management in Australia.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Cost-effectiveness analysis using a decision-analytic model of Australian primary care, informed by publicly available data.

Interventions

We compared the costs of teledermoscopy referral (electronic referral containing digital dermoscopic images) vs usual care (a written referral letter) for specialist dermatologist review of a suspected skin cancer.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Cost and time in days to clinical resolution, where clinical resolution was defined as diagnosis by a dermatologist or excision by a general practitioner. Probabilistic sensitivity analysis was performed to examine the uncertainty of the main results.

Results

Findings from the decision-analytic model showed that the mean time to clinical resolution was 9 days (range, 1-50 days) with teledermoscopy referral compared with 35 days (range, 0-138 days) with usual care alone (difference, 26 days; 95% credible interval [CrI], 13-38 days). The estimated mean cost difference between teledermoscopy referral (A$318.39) vs usual care (A$263.75) was A$54.64 (95% CrI, A$22.69-A$97.35) per person. The incremental cost per day saved to clinical resolution was A$2.10 (95% CrI, A$0.87-A$5.29).

Conclusions and Relevance

Using teledermoscopy for skin cancer referral and triage in Australia would cost A$54.64 extra per case on average but would result in clinical resolution 26 days sooner than usual care. Implementation recommendations depend on the preferences of the Australian health system decision makers for either lower cost or expedited clinical resolution. Further research around the clinical significance of expedited clinical resolution and its importance for patients could inform implementation recommendations for the Australian setting.

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