Teledermatology may help ease the burden on the NHS
Written by Danny Buckland. Reproduced with kind permission from the Raconteur.
Skin diseases are among the most common ailments presented to healthcare professionals, yet dermatology is not prioritised in the GP training curriculum and is starved of resources. Around 24 per cent of the public seek medical advice for skin conditions and a report by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) earlier this year called for urgent action to “make dermatology an exemplar for integration, self-care and harnessing technology and innovation”.
The ABPI Dermatology Initiative report identified telemedicine – the use of secure mobile devices to upload and share images and video links for remote patient monitoring – as a vital tool to support triage and referral if properly integrated with existing services. The take-up is gathering momentum.
Skin cancer rates have risen by 70 per cent for people aged 25 to 49 since the 1990s, according to Cancer Research UK and, with one in ten consultant dermatology posts vacant, the stress on secondary care is an advancing concern. “Technology needs to be embraced on a wider scale and interoperability of systems is key. For this, hearts and minds need to change as well as further investment given to technology,” says Dr Angelika Razzaque, executive chair of the Primary Care Dermatology Society. “Clinicians and managers need to be more open minded and need to have more time for innovative thinking. With busy clinics and government targets to keep up with, there is little room for creative thinking.”
But dedicated apps, improved image quality and secure systems are providing GPs with tools to streamline diagnostic and therapy pathways. Consultant Connect, a company that links GPs to specialists across disciplines, found dermatology eager to embrace its potential.
“Our approach worked very well in cardiology and diabetes, but we kept being asked ‘do you do anything for dermatology?'” says CEO Jonathan Patrick.
“We added a function to our app that made it easy for GPs to take photos safely using their own phone. The photos aren’t saved on the phone nor the user’s photo stream. They are saved to the cloud and can be easily exported to the patient record or the NHS electronic referrals system. The photos can also be shared directly with NHS dermatology teams. It’s now the most used photo app in the NHS.”
Dr Alice Overbury, who has used Consultant Connect at her practice in south-east London, says it’s “revolutionary” in helping provide fast diagnoses and targeted referrals.
You can also listen to what other GPs and commissioners think of our telederm services, and download a free telederm pathways guide, click here.