FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 6, 2014) -- In an effort to improve the patient experience, Lyster Army Health Clinic will soon offer dermatology consults.

The consult process will provide better continuity of care between dermatology and primary care managers. It will also give patients the convenience of same-day service for a specialty appointment.

"Lyster refers more than 130 patients per month to network dermatologists and these patients are often faced with the inconvenience of going back and forth between the dermatologist and their PCM trying to help interpret complicated instructions and diagnosis," said Capt. Melissa Riester, chief of radiology and program coordinator for LAHC's telehealth initiative.

Since LAHC and other small military treatment facilities do not have dermatologists on staff, the Southern Regional Medical Command developed a process called teledermatology, which leverages exiting technology to provide state-of-the-art medical care.

Teledermatology employs a high-resolution digital camera to take an image of the affected area (skin, hair, nails) and electronically transfers the image and the patient's medical history via a computer application to a dermatologist at San Antonio Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Once the dermatologist reads the image and patient's history, he or she returns the diagnosis and further instructions to the patient's PCM.

"The results should be returned in about 72 hours (or less) and the PCM will deliver the results to the patient and schedule any follow-up appointments," Riester said. "The biggest advantage is the PCM can consult directly with the dermatologist and this moves the burden of dermatological case management from the patient back to the PCM; resulting in timely treatment and an increase in the quality of care."

Should the dermatologist suggest a routine biopsy, the patient need only to report back to their PCM.

The teledermatology office will be located in the radiology department and will be open for use in about one month.

"We look forward to implementing a novel service using commercially available technology, and are thrilled that we will soon have the ability to offer our patients and their providers the convenience and consistency of teledermatology," Riester said.