Diagnostic Accuracy of Pediatric Teledermatology Using Parent-Submitted Photographs: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

Importance

Advances in smartphone photography (both quality and image transmission) may improve access to care via direct parent-to-clinician telemedicine. However, the accuracy of diagnoses that are reliant on parent-provided photographs has not been formally compared with diagnoses made in person.

Objective

To assess whether smartphone photographs of pediatric skin conditions taken by parents are of sufficient quality to permit accurate diagnosis.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A prospective study was conducted among 40 patient-parent dyads at a pediatric dermatology clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia from March 1 to September 30, 2016, to assess concordance between diagnoses made by an independent pediatric dermatologist based on in-person examination and those based on parental photographs. Half of the patient-parent dyads were randomized for a secondary analysis to receive instructions on how best to take photographs with smartphones. Clinicians were blinded to whether parents had received photography instructions.

Exposures

Half of the patient-parent dyads received a simple, 3-step instruction sheet on how best to take photographs using a smartphone (intervention group); the other half did not (control group).

Main Outcomes and Measures

Concordance between photograph-based vs in-person diagnosis in the intervention vs control groups, as quantified using Cohen κ, a measure of interrater agreement that takes into account the possibility of agreement occurring by chance.

Results

Among the 40 patient-parent dyads (22 female children and 18 male children; mean [SD] age, 6.96 [5.23] years), overall concordance between photograph-based vs in-person diagnosis was 83% (95% CI, 71%-94%; κ = 0.81). Diagnostic concordance was 89% (95% CI, 75%-97%; κ = 0.88) in a subgroup of 37 participants with photographs considered of high enough quality to make a diagnosis. No statistically significant effect of photography instructions on concordance was detected (group that received instructions, 85%; group that did not receive instructions, 80%; P = .68). In cases of diagnostic disagreement, appropriate follow-up was suggested.

Conclusions and Relevance

Parent-operated smartphone photography can accurately be used as a method to provide pediatric dermatologic care.

Trial Registration

clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT03246945

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