IMPORTANCE: Effective patient education is necessary for treating patients with acne vulgaris. Automated online counseling simulates face-to-face encounters and may be a useful tool to deliver education. OBJECTIVE: To compare the effectiveness of a standard educational website with that of an automated-counseling website in improving clinical outcomes and quality of life among adolescents with acne. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Randomized clinical trial conducted between March 27, 2014, and June 27, 2014, including a 12-week follow-up in a local inner-city high school. Ninety-eight students aged at least 13 years with mild to moderate acne were eligible for participation. A per-protocol analysis of the evaluable population was conducted on clinical outcome data. INTERVENTIONS: Participants viewed either a standard educational website or an automated-counseling website. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcomewas the total acne lesion count. Secondary measures included the Children's Dermatology Life Quality Index (CDLQI) scores and general skin care behavior. RESULTS: Forty-nine participants were randomized to each group. At baseline, the mean (SD) total acne lesion count was not significantly different between the standard-website group and the automated-counseling-website group (21.33 [10.81] vs 25.33 [12.45]; P = .10). Improvement in the mean (SD) acne lesion count was not significantly different between the standard-website group and the automated-counseling-website group (0.20 [9.26] vs 3.90 [12.19]; P = .10). The mean (SD) improvement in CDLQI score for the standard-website group was not significantly different from that of the automated-counseling-website group (0.17 [2.64] vs 0.39 [2.94]; P = .71). After 12 weeks, a greater proportion of participants in the automated-counseling-website group maintained or adopted a recommended anti-acne skin care routine compared with the standard-website group (43%vs 22%; P = .03). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Internet-based acne education using automated counseling was not superior to standard-website education in improving acne severity and quality of life. However, a greater proportion of participants who viewed the automated-counseling website reported having maintained or adopted a recommended anti-acne skin care regimen.
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