News You Can Use: GW, Pfizer Offering Grants to Improve Access to Teledermatology in Underserved Areas

July 17, 2023

The opportunity is focused on broad implementation of GW’s Teledermatology Help Desk Clinic model.

The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and Pfizer Global Medical Grants are collaborating to offer a grant opportunity focused on broad implementation of GW’s Teledermatology Help Desk Clinic model in underserved areas across the United States.

The program is designed to expand access to quality-based care for Inflammatory Dermatoses including Atopic Dermatitis and other inflammatory dermatologic conditions.

“During the pandemic, the healthcare divide became even more apparent across many underserved areas,” says Adam Friedman, M.D., chair of Dermatology and residency program director at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, in a news release. “However, as telemedicine enhanced access to dermatologic medical care for many, we also noticed that the divide itself was widened not just because there was a health desert – but now there’s also a technology desert.”

“Specific populations are at greatest risk for physical, emotional, and financial losses associated with inflammatory dermatoses. And it is well established that there are significant racial disparities in health care and disease burden,” said Friedman. “For example, those who identify as Black tend to have more atopic dermatitis, have more severe disease, but make up fewer of the appointments seen by a dermatologist for this condition. While finally receiving the attention it deserves, this disparity has been long lived and pervasive in all areas of medicine.”

The grant program is designed as an expansion of a current program run by GW that focuses on neighborhoods in Ward 7 and Ward 8 of Washington, D.C., an area that has limited access to dermatologic care.  

GW established a telehealth help desk at the Temple of Praise Church in a residential area of Ward 8. This new program will complement the church’s existing programs that are aimed at helping community members in need. 

Participants are entered into the GW medical records system, taught how to best optimize telemedicine with their device in real time and about atopic dermatitis, followed by a free telehealth visit with a GW dermatology resident.

 “The number of dermatologists/dermatology clinics in this area of the District is disproportionately low to serve the health needs of this large population. Outcomes and access to care among these residents lag far behind other groups,” Dr. Friedman says.  

Friedman adds, “In fact there is not a single dermatologist practicing in this area of D.C. Though the reasons for underutilizing telemedicine can vary from patient to patient, we believe that improving access to technology and increasing awareness of teledermatology will lead to more patients using this type of healthcare to seek diagnosis and treatment before symptoms become too severe.”

A patient satisfaction survey from the GW pilot program (accepted for publication, Journal of Drugs in Dermatology) found that the majority of participants did not have a dermatologist (70%), 93.94% were extremely satisfied with the clinic, and the remaining were very satisfied, 90.1% reported that the telehealth visits significantly changed the management of their atopic dermatitis, and 100% of participants responded that it is extremely important to continue these clinics.

Who Can Apply / How to Apply:

Organizations with expertise in the care and treatment of patients with inflammatory skin conditions, including medical, nursing, allied health, and/or pharmacy professional schools; healthcare institutions (both large and small); professional associations and medical societies; medical education companies; and other entities with a mission related to healthcare professional education and/or healthcare improvement.  

Individual projects requesting up to a maximum of $250,000 will be considered. Anticipated Approximate Project Start and End Dates: January 2024 – July 2025 (maximum project length is 18 months).

The full Request for Proposals can be accessed here and proposals are due by August 24, 2023.

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