Creation of an Internal Teledermatology Store-and-Forward System in an Existing Electronic Health Record: A Pilot Study in a Safety-Net Public Health and Hospital System

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Abstract

Importance

External store-and-forward (SAF) teledermatology systems operate separately from the primary health record and have many limitations, including care fragmentation, inadequate communication among clinicians, and privacy and security concerns, among others. Development of internal SAF workflows within existing electronic health records (EHRs) should be the standard for large health care organizations for delivering high-quality dermatologic care, improving access, and capturing other telemedicine benchmark data. Epic EHR software (Epic Systems Corporation) is currently one of the most widely used EHR system in the United States, and development of a successful SAF workflow within it is needed.

Objectives

To develop an SAF teledermatology workflow within the Epic system, the existing EHR system of Parkland Health and Hospital System (Dallas, Texas), assess its effectiveness in improving access to care, and validate its reliability; and to evaluate the system’s ability to capture meaningful outcomes.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Electronic consults were independently evaluated by 2 board-certified dermatologists, who provided diagnoses and treatment plans to primary care physicians (PCPs). Results were compared with in-person referrals from May to December 2013 from the same clinic (a community outpatient clinic in a safety-net public hospital system). Patients were those 18 years or older with dermatologic complaints who would have otherwise been referred to dermatology clinic.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Median time to evaluation; percentage of patients evaluated by a dermatologist through either teledermatology or in-person compared with the previous year.

Results

Seventy-nine teledermatology consults were placed by 6 PCPs from an outpatient clinic between May and December 2014; 57 (74%) were female and their mean (SD) age was 47.0 (12.4) years. Teledermatology reduced median time to evaluation from 70.0 days (interquartile range [IQR], 33.25-83.0 days) to 0.5 days (IQR, 0.172-0.94 days) and median time to treatment from 73.5 to 3.0 days compared with in-person dermatology visits. Overall, a greater percentage of patients (120 of 144 [83.3%]) were evaluated by a dermatologist through either teledermatology or in-person during the 2014 study period compared with the previous year (111 of 173 [64.2%]). Primary care physicians followed management recommendations 93% of the time.

Conclusions and Relevance

Epic-based SAF teledermatology can improve access to dermatologic care in a public safety-net hospital setting. We hope that the system will serve as a model for other health care organizations wanting to create SAF teledermatology workflows within the Epic EHR system.

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