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Doctors Making Modern Day House Calls Via New Website

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Instead of waiting months for an appointment, how about you "get right in" to see the doctor and have a diagnosis in just 24 hours?

You can do this – all while never leaving your house.

"My schedule is nuts right now," said Laurie Reis. "With school and work and home, and getting kids and the animals and my clients."

With all this going on, who has time to go to the dermatologist?

But skin can be insistent.

"I was having a breakout," said Reis.

Instead of going to her primary doctor or to an express care center, Reis went to her computer. She remembered seeing an ad on her doctor's website for a new way to see the skin doctor: DermatologistOnCall.com.

"I used it right away," said Reis. "I thought I want to use this, I want to find out what's going on and get it done."

Founder Dr. Mark Seraly says it's essentially the same as a doctor visit, without having to wait weeks for an appointment.

"They upload all their medical information and the process is similar to how it would normally happen in office face-to-face," Seraly said.

"The diagnosis, the treatment and counseling information is then sent back to the patient within 11 hours," he added.

Reis liked the service so much, she's using it again for a spot on her arm.

"Really easy," she said. "And I'm not good on the computer at all."

She didn't mind that it did not involve in-person interaction.

"I preferred it," she said. "I thought it was less intimidating to do it online. And I was able to be more descriptive."

"A lot of time at the doctor's office, I feel rushed," she added.

There is also a messaging option for up to 30 days after the online visit, in case questions come up later.

What did Laurie like the most?

"Not having to wait for an appointment," she said. "And the fact that I could do it in my jammies at home. The convenience of it."

The virtual visit costs $59. It's not covered by most insurance, though Highmark began covering the service in January.

"The next morning, when I got up, the treatment plan was there," said Reis. "And he called two prescriptions into my pharmacy. I didn't even have to wait at the pharmacy."

The service is meant for a single concern, not a full body skin check.

A third of the consults are for acne, though eczema, psoriasis, infections and lumps and bumps are also common reasons people check in. Sixty percent of the users are female and 60 percent are younger than 40.

For in-person doctor visits, patients are generally 65 and older.

In one in 50 cases, the doctor may ask for another set of images, usually because of blurriness.
"We take our boards by looking at images, we re-certify by looking at images," said Seraly, "we do all our continuing medical education and self-assessment."

"It's just as diagnostically reliable for me to do a visit virtually as it is seeing a patient in office, face to face," he added.

The service is not intended to replace face-to-face visits, but is simply another option.

If a legion looks suspicious, the doctor may help you arrange an in-person visit for a biopsy and further treatment.

"Nothing ever replaces seeing a patient live," said Dr. Justin Vujevich with Vujevich Dermatology. "You can't feel the lesion."

To put the website to the test, we asked a dermatologist who does not participate in the service to provide a case backed up with biopsy results.

It took about 10 minutes to enter the patient information, medical history and pictures of the skin concern. It was a Friday.

"This would be a lesion that would require the patient to come in to the office to have a biopsy to diagnose the squamous cell skin cancer," Vujevich said.

On Monday, this is what we saw: the diagnosis of keratoacanthoma, a type of squamous cell skin cancer.

"I thought the diagnosis was dead on," said Vujevich.

The doctor even sent a note of concern about the urgency to do a biopsy and offered to make room in her schedule.

"Yes, I thought that was nice," said Vujevich. "Having a board-certified dermatologist taking a look at that photo I thought that diagnosis should have been made. And fortunately, it was."

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