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Internet acne education with automated counselling tested in clinical trial

By Kofi Dwinfour

An Internet-based acne education program that included automated counselling was not better than a standard educational website in improving acne severity and quality of life in adolescents, according to an article published by JAMA Dermatology.

woman face with acne

Acne vulgaris is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is prevalent among adolescents. Patient education is an important part of managing acne along with medication. However, the effect of patient education on clinical outcomes is not well characterised in dermatology publications.

Researcher April W. Armstrong, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Colorado, Aurora, and her co-authors developed an educational website on acne that incorporated automated online counselling to simulate face-to-face encounters. A standard educational website on acne was also developed for comparison. Both websites included suggestions on preventing acne, as well as information on medications and an anti-acne skin care routine.

The authors assessed the websites' effect on acne severity and quality of life in a randomised clinical trial. Ninety-eight high school students with mild to moderate acne were enrolled, and 95 students completed the study. The students were divided equally between the enhanced online education program with automated counselling and the standard website.

Students in both groups had similar acne lesion counts at the start of the randomised trial (an average of 21.33 lesions per person in the standard-website group vs. 25.33 lesions in the automated-counselling group). After 12 weeks, the change in the average number of acne lesions in the automated-counselling group (3.90 lesions) compared with the standard-website group (0.20 lesions) was not statistically significant, according to the results. Average improvement in quality of life scores was not significantly different between the two groups as well.

woman face acne

The authors suggest their results may be explained by lower-than expected use of the study websites. They note that "despite a lack of differential effect between websites, our results indicate that the automated-counselling website improved short-term skin care behaviours."

"Therefore, interactive Internet-based education may still carry the potential to improve long-term clinical factors, such as acne severity and quality of life. This conclusion is significant given the importance of discovering modern and novel techniques to deliver patient education in dermatology," the study concludes.

What is your experience with acne? Has your GP helped? Do you use websites (such as skinawareness.org) to get information, support and advice? Share your story or leave a comment below.

The JAMA Network Journals. (2015, May 27). Internet acne education with automated counseling tested in clinical trial. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150527124721.htm

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The prevalence of skin disease exceeds that of obesity, hypertension, or cancer. Despite skin being the largest organ of the human body, dermatological research remains one of the most under funded areas of medicine. In a world where society has an increasing preoccupation with image and it’s importance to every aspect of a person’s life, sufferers of skin diseases are feeling and being more marginalised and isolated than ever.

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