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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 18-24

Assessment of the Saudi Arabian telemedicine experience during the COVID-19 pandemic: Dermatology-related consultations as a case

1 Department of Dermatology, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Computer Engineering and Science, Albaha University, Al Bahah, Saudi Arabia
3 Department of Medicine and Surgery, Collage of Medicine, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sahar H Alsharif
Dermatologic Surgery Fellow, Department of Dermatology, King Saud University, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdds.jdds_67_21

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Background: COVID-19 is a pandemic disease that spreads rapidly. The World Health Organization recommended social distancing to prevent disease transmission. Telemedicine was one of the most important tools used during the pandemic to provide health-care services. Different clinics, including dermatology clinics, tended to use telehealth and online tools. In addition, various dermatological conditions were diagnosed and treated by family physicians using the telemedicine applications of the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH). Purpose: The present study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of family physicians using telemedicine to diagnose and manage different dermatological conditions. Specifically, we aimed to identify the common dermatological conditions that family physicians faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the use of the various telemedicine applications launched by the Saudi MOH. We also intended to assess the need for dermatologists in the telemedicine applications of the Saudi MOH and suggest possible improvements to the telemedicine process and related Saudi MOH applications for sustainable online health care. Methods: The cross-sectional study was conducted across Saudi Arabia among family physicians and general practitioners to assess their perception of using telemedicine for dermatology-related consultations. The self-administered survey questionnaire contained 16 questions in five sections. Results: A total of 302 family medicine and general physicians completed the questionnaire. Altogether, 165 (54.6%) physicians reported that they had never used telemedicine before the COVID-19 pandemic, while 12.9% reported frequent to continuous use. During the pandemic, 86.8% of family and general physicians used telemedicine for dermatological consultations. The most used methods were phone calls (57.6%) and the SEHA application (42.7%). A total of 96.4% of participants reported that they dealt with dermatological conditions before the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly, about 99% of family physicians reported that they faced difficulty diagnosing dermatology-related consultations. Telemedicine was frequently used by all physicians in the central region compared with 76.7% of those in the western region (P = 0.035). Conclusion: Family physicians in Saudi Arabia increased their telemedicine practicing during the pandemic. Different telemedicine tools were used, such as phone calls, virtual clinics, and Saudi MOH applications (SEHA, TETAMMAN, TABAUD, TAWAKKALNA). The majority of family physicians faced difficulty diagnosing dermatological conditions. In addition, most reported that dermatologists should be part of health-care facilities and telemedicine centers to deal with dermatology-related consultations.

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