New Delhi: In case you don`t feel like stepping out due to acne, just log in. Thanks to technology, many people have begun to explore online platforms like Skype and chat messengers or phone calls for expert advice on skin-related problems.
This mode of consultation is restricted to quick-fix beauty treatments like botox, skin-polishing, fillers or for basic problems like tanning, acne, pigmentation and even cough and cold.
"Over the years, the use of technology has grown by leaps and bounds. We also have to keep abreast. The trend has increased tremendously. While a considerable number still prefers to come to us at the hospital, there is a substantial number taking initial consultation over phone/video applications. Given the clarity of videoconferencing, we can look at basic problems," Mumbai-based dermatologist Satish Bhatia told reporters on telephone.
"When consulting through means other than physical observation, there is more frequent check-ups, and for the final consultation patients have to come to the clinic," he added.
Another Mumbai-based dermatologist, Apratim Goel, explains what kind of queries they generally get.
"We get varied types of beauty queries on phone and mail. Right from acne, allergies to tanning and excessive hair growth and birth marks. But most common are those related to acne, stretch marks and how to remove pigmentation and get glowing skin," he said.
"So we take the detailed history and also ask a patient to post us a close-up picture of the front and side of a face on mail. For minor skin issues we generally give consultations but do not give prescriptions without seeing them first. It is always advisable that the patient first comes for a consultation and then does the follow-up on phone or e-mail," he added.
Another advantage is that people in smaller cities can consult well-known experts in metros without having to visit them in the initial stages.
"We have received queries from Patna, Lucknow, Bhopal, to name a few places. New patients generally get to learn about us through word of mouth and then they contact us either through phone or e-mail," said Indu Tolani, a dermatologist.
"People in tier-2, tier-3 cities generally cannot afford to visit us for small dermatological problems, especially for problems like hair fall and treatments like hair transplantation. Such patients can get immediate advice on phone and then once in a while they can come for treatments," she added.
So how are the experts paid in such cases? For one, there is no fixed rulebook.
"Nothing is fixed. If the person is known to us, we sometimes don`t charge for a telephonic consultation. In the case of a first-time caller also, we generally don`t charge and if that person comes to consult us at the clinic then he or she is charged accordingly," said Tolani.
Though the technology-driven scenario makes things a lot easier, Goel points out it has its limitations.
"To a large extent, technology is good. But not totally. Firstly, examining the skin personally makes a lot of difference versus doing it on mail or web. Secondly, lots of these patients require the help of lasers and other procedures, which cannot be carried out on phone," said Goel.
"So I would say there is definitely a limitation in handling skin issues on phone and mail, but, yes, in some cases like allergies and skin reactions, the instant help on phone helps a lot. At times we provide online help and then ask the client to come to us as soon as possible. This ensures the immediate help that prevents skin from getting worse," he added.