Atopic eczema is a chronic inflammatory non-contagious skin disease characterised by intensive itch and inflamed skin. Due to its chronic and relapsing course atopic eczema imposes a great burden on affected families. Review articles about home care telemedicine have indicated advantageous effects of home telehealth. However, few studies have investigated how home care telemedicine applications affect the workload of the clinician.
The use of a web-based counselling system was recorded through computerised logging. The doctor who answered the requests sent via the Internet recorded the amount of time needed for reading and answering 93 consecutive requests.
The time needed by the physician to read and answer a request was less than 5 minutes in 60% of the cases. The doctor spent significantly more time to answer requests that had photographs attached compared to requests without photographs (P = 0.005). The time needed to answer requests received during the winter season (October-March) was significantly longer than the rest of the year (P = 0.023). There was no correlation between the answering time and the age of the patient.
Individual web-based follow-up of atopic eczema patients at home is feasible. The amount of time needed for the doctor to respond to a request from the patient appears to be small. The answering time seems to depend on whether photographs are supplied and also on seasonal variations of disease activity. Since the management of atopic eczema is complex involving many different types of treatments and educational aspects, we expect this type of communication to be useful also to other chronic disease patients requiring close follow-up.