News, NHS trust

Teledermatology service supporting waiting list reductions in Cornwall

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) has partnered with Isla Health to offer dermatology services remotely to patients across community hospitals in Cornwall.

Patients can be referred-in by their GP to an imaging clinic, where a medical photographer will take photographs of areas identified for concern, before those images are reviewed by a consultant using the ISLA platform the following day.

Dr Sandy Anderson, associate specialist at RCHT, noted that the region has seen “an epidemic of skin cancer in the last few years” with the melanoma diagnosis rate in Cornwall “almost three quarters of the rate in Australia”.

This, combined with a reported shortage of dermatologists in the UK, means that “innovating the way we work is inevitable,” Sandy added.

“We can get 150-200 referrals a week, but we know that 50 percent of those can be sent back to their GP. These community-based clinics are virtually filtering for cancer, speeding up the process, reducing waiting lists and allowing patients to get a faster diagnosis without having to travel for a specialist appointment.”

The trust is said to have received positive feedback from patients so far, and hopes to expand the offering to further community hospitals within the county.

As well as providing a safe and secure space for images to be shared with clinicians, teams are looking at the possibility of introducing AI to the platform, as a “possible tool to help diagnose skin cancers”.

Peter Hansell and James Jurkiewicz, co-founders at ISLA Health, said: “Isla exists to bring scalability to health services, and working with pioneering NHS trusts implementing new ways of working is exactly how we achieve that. The Tele-dermatology service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS trust has delivered amazing impact for patients already, and we are super excited to extend our partnership, delivering novel remote services with RCHT and across the county.”

In related news, NHS England has published a roadmap with the aim of accelerating the roll-out of teledermatology, by setting out practical steps that systems can take to ensure implementation of a “efficient, safe and effective” teletermatology service, including opportunities to improve integration and prepare for the introduction of artificial intelligence in skin lesion pathways.

Elsewhere, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust has gone live with the national pathology imaging co-operative (NPIC) digital pathology platform, the “high-capacity pathology image repository and exchange system”.