Adam Friedman, MD: Discussing How Telemedicine can Address Disparities in Care

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During this interview segment, Friedman further explored the topics in his presentation on fixing disparities in care for eczema patients through teledermatology.

In this HCPLive interview segment, Adam Friedman, MD, discussed the ways he believes dermatologists should be focused on improving disparities among various groups with atopic dermatitis, including those disproportionately impacted.

Friedman serves as both Professor and Chair of Dermatology for the Department of Dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences. His presentation had been presented at the Revolutionizing Atopic Dermatitis (RAD) 2023 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

“I find at least in my own career, and I would certainly encourage anyone watching this to kind of pay attention to their journey…things kind of just fall in your lap and you can choose to run with them or not,” Friedman said.

As with many clinicians, Friedman noted that telemedicine was not on his radar until the COVID-19 pandemic, though he was involved peripherally in some projects beforehand.

“And so much of what we do, really relies on communicating with someone asking the right questions, but also visualizing what it is that's bothering them,” Friedman added. “Telemedicine really lends itself to the field of dermatology.”

He went on to explain that in his own work, almost overnight, they converted many visits to telemedicine visits on a regular basis.

Friedman then described a research survey that his team conducted of those who had undergone telemedicine visits, including satisfaction rates which were found to be very high. Additionally, however, the team noted something that they found interesting when looking at those who responded.

“A very small percentage came from an area of DC, titled Wards 7 and 8, which is in general one of the lower socio economic areas in Washington DC, though there certainly are pockets of extraordinary wealth, but certainly better known for lower socioeconomic status,” he noted. “I will also say that, especially in Ward 8, it’s predominantly individuals who self identify as Black, and as far as of right now, no dermatologist present.”

He noted that this brought up the question of whether his team was helping improve access or widening the divide even further with regard to health disparities.

“So we think about healthcare deserts, but they're also our technology deserts,” Friedman explained. “And I would argue they're often one of the same in the same locations.”

His team then partnered with the Rodham Institute, a community-facing organization at GW that was put in place to address various disparities such as pipeline disparities for underserved communities and helping them start medical careers using mentorship programs.

“So given all this work, why is this important?” Friedman said. “Well, they had created an extraordinary network of community stakeholders and partners that there is no way I could create overnight and they facilitated a relationship…with Bishop Webb, who is my point of contact.”

He noted that the Institute served as a matchmaker and brainstorm and eventually help to create what they called a “telemedicine help desk,” in which it was not only a free clinic, but also an educational clinic in which people see purposely-placed advertisements in social media, local restaurants, and businesses and even church.

These individuals “would then come in and get registered in our electronic medical record system,” he said, adding that they would receive a kind of crash course in telemedicine best practices.

To learn more about Friedman’s research, view the interview segment above.