Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced £5 million of NHSX funding for teledermatology services in England.
The investment will be used for equipment, training and digital technology to speed up the diagnosis of skin conditions including potential cancers.
This will enable GPs to take images of skin conditions using dermatoscopes attached to a smartphone or tablet, which can be shared with specialist dermatologists.
NHSX is providing the funding across 28 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and seven hospital trusts, supported by NHS England and Improvement’s outpatient transformation programme.
However, Faculty of Future Healthcare, chief medical strategy officer and former NHSX director of digital, Prof Sam Shah, raised privacy concerns about teledermatology services. He said it is essential that solutions implemented protect patients’ privacy and do not transfer data rights to system providers.
WHY IT MATTERS
Every year around 900,000 people see GPs for skin concerns or disease and the COVID-19 pandemic has led a backlog of patients seeking outpatient dermatology appointments.
By expanding teledermatology services, the NHS hopes to reduce unnecessary hospital appointments and speed up access to diagnosis and treatments, lasix use in renal failure including two week wait skin cancer referrals.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
In a recent blog post, NHSX chief executive, Matthew Gould defended NHSX against speculation the body was disappearing following plans revealed last month to incorporate the tech unit into a new transformational directorate.
At last year’s HIMSS and Health 2.0 European Health Conference, Gavin Matthews, UK business development director at SkinVision, explained how smartphones can help detect skin conditions.
ON THE RECORD
Hancock said: “NHSX has published a procurement tool to allow images to flow from high street opticians to ophthalmology clinics and we’re working to help primary care clinicians safely share images with specialist dermatologists in secondary care.”
Gould said: “This investment by NHSX will not only support secure image sharing and associated technology in dermatology, but will also open up opportunities for the wider use of image sharing to improve patient care across a range of other specialties.”
British Association of Dermatologists president, Dr Tanya Bleiker, said: “The British Association of Dermatologists support efforts to make dermatology services more accessible and to use digital technology to support holistic care, focusing on the needs of patients.”
A spokesperson for Consultant Connect, which provides dermatoscopes and dermatology software to the NHS, said: “It’s a brilliant initiative by the NHS – our projects have shown that nearly a third of suspected skin cancer patients can be discharged before their appointment if their GP takes an image of the lesion and shares it with a consultant.”
Prof Shah said: “Initiatives such as teledermatology could help improve efficiency. Whilst these services are implemented, it’s even more important that the NHS resolves historic issues relating to data privacy and security. The recent Digital Technology Assessment Criteria could help if it’s applied at a local level and with sufficient technical knowledge.”
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