You Can Text Your Zits To A Derm & Get An Rx — But Should You?

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iphone5Photo: Courtesy of PocketDerm.
The future is shaping up to be a place where there's an app for everything — even for your zits, thanks to PocketDerm. The app, which launches today, relies on teledermatology to connect patients to doctors, allowing acne sufferers to upload photos of their skin and then receive a customized prescription from a board-certified dermatologist. The powerful, personalized products are only available from a doctor, but with the app, there's no need to make an in-person appointment. Oh, and also? PocketDerm ships the product to you once it's been prescribed.

The service is pretty affordable, considering how much a visit to the derm can cost. At $29.95 per month, it appeals to the cheapest, busiest parts of our souls. Plus, this is a fantastic service for people without health insurance or without access to proper dermatological care for other reasons. And, Dr. David Lortscher of PocketDerm says, "Studies on teledermatology show that dermatologists can provide excellent diagnosis and treatment based on high-quality photos and a detailed medical history."

But, if you can get to a dermatologist for acne-related issues, an in-person visit might be more beneficial. "A big part of an acne exam is actually feeling the skin with your fingertips," says dermatologist Whitney Bowe. "And, sometimes there are things on the skin so subtle that they can't be easily captured on a digital image, and you have to get up really close to the skin and look at it in person."

Dr. Bowe says that another hugely important part of the exam is hearing the patient's story. While PocketDerm requires you to answer a few simple questions before uploading photos, Dr. Bowe prefers to hear a full history. "There's always a story that can help the dermatologist determine what we're looking at," she says. "You can end up hurting someone if you assume that something is acne without getting a proper backstory and feeling the lesions. It could be rosacea, or an overlap of acne and rosacea, or even drug-induced. "

However, if you have mild acne — the kind that can be managed with over-the-counter treatments — it is possible to receive a product that can help through teledermatology, Dr. Bowe says. Or, if you can't get a derm appointment in the near future and need a product to get you through in the meantime, she says that this app could be a sufficient temporary solution. Not a replacement for a visit, mind you, but more of an in-the-meantime thing.

Dr. Lortscher actually agrees with Dr. Bowe that certain patients definitely need to be examined in person. "When our dermatologists judge that this is necessary, we assist the patient in finding a local dermatologist, and we do not charge the patient," he says. So, it's kind of a win-win: The app will help you out if it can and let you know if your acne transcends the capabilities of the technology.

What do you think? Does this sound like the way of the future?



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