Abstract and Introduction
The direct-to-consumer (DTC) telemedicine industry, including teledermatology, has seen rapid expansion in recent years, partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage of dermatologists and the visual nature of dermatologic conditions attracted DTC companies to dermatology. As more patients continue to seek medical consultations and prescription medications from these for-profit companies, we must approach their growth with healthy skepticism. Shortcomings of DTC teledermatology include concerns about conflicts of interest (COIs), overdiagnosis, and overprescribing. Although DTC teledermatology is certainly here to stay, an appropriate understanding of this industry will allow dermatologists to advise patients and advocate for best practices.
In recent years, direct-to-consumer (DTC) teledermatology platforms have gained popularity as telehealth business models, allowing patients to directly initiate visits with physicians and purchase medications from single platforms. A shortage of dermatologists, improved technology, drug patent expirations, and rising health care costs accelerated the growth of DTC dermatology. During the COVID-19 pandemic, teledermatology adoption surged due to the need to provide care while social distancing and minimizing viral exposure. These needs prompted additional federal funding and loosened regulatory provisions. As the userbase of these companies has grown, so have their valuations. Although the DTC model has attracted the attention of patients and investors, its rise provokes many questions about patients acting as consumers in health care. Indeed, DTC telemedicine offers greater autonomy and convenience for patients, but it may impact the quality of care and the nature of physician-patient relationships, perhaps making them more transactional.
Cutis. 2022;109(4):211-217. © 2022 Cutis