What to Know About Telehealth With a Dermatologist

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While many aspects of an appointment with a dermatologist are hands-on, telehealth can be a great option when treating or diagnosing various skin conditions.

In other scenarios—such as when a person requires a biopsy or specific types of treatment—an in-person appointment may be necessary.

telehealth with a dermatologist

Solskin / Getty Images

Telehealth and COVID-19

With the spread of COVID-19, telehealth has become an attractive alternative to in-person healthcare appointments. While healthcare offices and clinics are taking measures to keep staff and patients safe, refraining from going to public places—unless necessary—is a good practice during a pandemic.

When to Use Telehealth With a Dermatologist

Telehealth is most effective for conditions that are visible, such as those involving the skin, hair, or nails. Symptoms that a dermatologist might treat via a telehealth appointment, as well as issues they might address, include:

  • Various types of skin rashes
  • Spots on the skin that are suspicious
  • Moles
  • Skin allergies
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Medication refill appointments (for chronic conditions such as psoriasis)

Specific conditions that are applicable for telehealth with a dermatologist may include:

  • Acne: Due to clogged pores or other issues
  • Angioedema: Swelling of the layer of tissue just under the skin
  • Contact dermatitis: Itchy red rash, caused by an external irritant
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: A skin rash with red patches and greasy yellow scales
  • Eczema: An inflammatory skin condition that causes an itchy rash
  • Psoriasis: A chronic condition involving inflamed, scaly, rough patches on the skin

You May Need to Be Seen in Person If...

Scenarios that often involve the need for an in-person dermatology appointment include:

  • When a suspicious mole or area of the skin requires a biopsy
  • When blood needs to be drawn for lab tests
  • When cosmetic dermatology procedures are planned—such as injectables or facial treatments
  • When complex treatments—such as topical chemotherapy—are needed
  • When in-office procedures—such as laser surgery, cryosurgery, or conservative excision—need to be performed
  • When symptoms suggest that emergency or immediate care is required

Benefits and Challenges

The benefits of telehealth dermatology may include:

  • Being able to access adequate healthcare services from the convenience and privacy of a person’s home
  • Getting access to specialists (such as dermatologists) who may not be located in a geographical area close enough to travel to (may save money when considering travel expense)
  • Having options for those who may be homebound (such as people who are elderly)

Benefit of Telehealth for People With Skin Cancer

A 2020 study reported that teledermatology has made the field accessible for people with poor access to specialty care, giving them the opportunity to seek immediate screening for skin cancer in places they would not otherwise have been able to do so.

The challenges of telehealth dermatology appointments may include:

  • Inadequate healthcare insurance coverage to pay for telehealth visits
  • Lack of the necessary equipment (such as a computer, smartphone, or Internet service) to access the telehealth platform
  • The inability of the healthcare provider to physically examine the patient, limiting a thorough assessment (such as the ability to palpate, or feel, an area of the skin for hardness)
  • The inability to view genital lesions via telehealth

Paying for Both In-Person and Telehealth Visits

In some instances, if a follow-up in-person appointment is requested by your dermatologist to evaluate a lesion that appears suspicious and then turns out to be benign, you are still responsible to pay for both the telehealth and in-person visits.

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit With a Dermatologist

Here are some steps that can help prepare you for your telehealth appointment:

  • Contact your insurance provider to find out if your specific plan covers telehealth appointments.
  • Ask your dermatologist’s staff if there are any papers you need to complete before your appointment (such as medical history). The paperwork could be scanned and emailed back to the office, or it may be filled in by hand and mailed if there is time before your appointment.
  • Find out what type of telemedicine appointment you will have, and if you’ll be sending photos, find out how and when to send them. For a telephone visit, find out when to expect a call from your dermatologist. If you are having a video telehealth visit, request the link you will need to access the platform.

What to Bring

Gather any information you have about your medical history and make a list of:

  • All medications you take (including the dosages and time of day you take them)
  • Major illnesses or surgeries you’ve had in the past
  • Previous dermatology (skin, hair, or nail) problems
  • When your current symptoms started
  • Any allergies you have
  • Major illnesses that run in your family (such as heart disease or diabetes)

Taking Photos

When taking images to send to your dermatologist, there are some practical and useful tips to follow, including:

  • Take clear images that include the areas to be examined.
  • Ensure the photos are well lit.
  • Ensure there is no glare, and that no shadows appear on the images.
  • Take multiple images of each area that needs to be examined by the dermatologist.
  • If there is a specific area within the photo that you want the dermatologist to see, circle it with a marker on one of the images.
  • Take comparative images (for example, if there is a swollen area on one hand, take a picture of the opposite hand as well to compare it with).
  • Remove any makeup or nail polish before taking images.
  • Have a friend or family member help you take photos of any hard-to-reach (or see) places you need images of.
  • Avoid rubbing the skin, taking a hot shower, or doing anything else that may irritate or redden the skin before taking images.

Will Insurance Cover Telehealth With a Dermatologist?

Because of COVID-19, many insurance companies are making updates to coverage plans to include payment for telehealth visits. When you contact your insurance company, keep in mind that there are several different names for online health appointments; your insurance company may refer to the visit as a:

  • Telehealth visit
  • Telemedicine appointment
  • Virtual healthcare
  • Teledermatology

Also, keep in mind that some insurance companies have specific rules about how telehealth appointments should be conducted. For example, some health plans may not cover telephone appointments, but video appointments are allowed. Understanding all the parameters regarding coverage from your insurer could save you time and money down the road.

What Happens During the Visit

A dermatology telehealth appointment may include:

  • A video conference with your dermatologist
  • A phone call
  • Sending digital images (or written descriptions) of any suspicious lesions or skin areas through your patient portal or via email
  • A combination of a video conference, a phone call, and sending images
  • A request for an in-person appointment with a healthcare provider (under specific circumstances, such as when a biopsy is required)
  • A diagnosis and/or prescription for medication to treat the condition
  • A follow-up dermatology telehealth appointment

A Word From Verywell

If you are inexperienced with telehealth, it may seem overwhelming at first; but your healthcare provider’s office is prepared to help you and answer any inquiries you may have. Be sure to make a list of all your questions to ask, prescription refills, subsequent visits, and more.

If you are inexperienced at using a computer, it may be helpful to ask a friend or family member who is computer savvy to help during your appointment, or to help you get started.  

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Telemedicine: overview.

  2. Pala P, Bergler-Czop BS, Gwiżdż J. Teledermatology: idea, benefits and risks of modern age – a systematic review based on melanoma. pdia. 2020;37(2):159-167.doi:10.5114/ada.2020.94834

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Telemedicine: how to prepare.

  4. Skin Cancer Foundation. Five tips to prepare for a teledermatology appointment. Updated April 30, 2020.