Virtual Office Visits Result in Improved Use of Acne Medication

Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor
Published Online: Monday, November 14, 2011
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Tech-savvy teens with acne used their medicine more frequently when they also participated in a Web-based survey, according to new research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

In a study published in the October issue of Archives of Dermatology, Steve Feldman, MD, PhD, and colleagues examined whether a weekly Internet-based communication could improve teenagers’ use of topical acne therapy.

“Dermatologists have a number of effective topical agents for acne treatment, but patients often do not use their medications as prescribed,” said Dr. Feldman in a statement. “Medication use by teens tends to increase around the time of office visits, but this isn’t helpful.”

For the investigator-blinded, randomized, prospective study, investigators enrolled 20 participants aged 13 to 18 years with mild to moderate acne, who were prescribed topical benzoyl peroxide 5% gel daily for 12 weeks. Participants were randomized 1:1 to a control group or to an Internet-based survey group. Those in the Internet survey group were sent a weekly e-mail containing a link to a survey assessing their acne severity and treatment, and were asked to answer 6 questions addressing how they used the medication.

If participants in the Internet survey group completed at least 5 surveys during a 6-week period, they received a $5 gift card for In addition, each completed survey provided them an additional chance to win an iPod Nano at the study conclusion.

Medication use was monitored objectively with electronic monitors that recorded the date and time when the medication containers were opened. The mean adherence rate was 89% for the Internet survey group and 33% for the control group. Acne severity was evaluated with a rating scale as well as by inflammatory and noninflammatory lesion counts at the beginning of the study, at week 6, and week 12.

“Adolescents are savvy users of the Internet and other newer technologies, and we found they responded well to the online survey,” Dr. Feldman said. “We believe the weekly survey may have served as a ‘virtual office visit.’ Increasing our understanding of what is needed to get teens to use the medication as prescribed will provide better treatment outcomes for patients.”

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