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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