A new virtual skin cancer clinic established at Waikato Hospital by Health Waikato has raised international interest with hospitals in the United Kingdom planning to implement a similar diagnostic service.
Health Waikato, Waikato District Health Board’s hospital and health services provider, introduced a pilot skin lesion clinic with MoleMap in January this year, to reduce exhaustive waiting lists and time required to examine patients with lesions of concern.
Recent data from Waikato Hospital shows that around 800 patients with benign and malignant skin lesions are referred to the dermatology department each year for diagnosis and management. Those assessed as a ‘routine priority’ could wait up to six months for a first specialist appointment.
A number of patients referred to that service are now being seen at a MoleMap clinic, where a teledermatology nurse captures images of suspect skin lesions. The lesions are then reviewed remotely by a dermatologist who diagnoses the lesions and plans appropriate treatment at the hospital if required. Efficiencies are gained by reducing the need for a dermatologist to see each patient in person at the outpatient clinic.
Waikato Hospital dermatologist, Associate Professor Amanda Oakley says the success of the MoleMap clinic has meant patients who have lesions which require more urgent treatment can receive it immediately. Similarly, those patients whose lesions are benign are able to be reassured more quickly, reducing patient anxiety and expediting the screening process.
“Our trial has clearly demonstrated that teledermatology is an effective means of reducing hospital waiting lists for those with benign and malignant skin lesions including potential melanomas,” says Oakley.
The results of the Health Waikato trial were published in the influential British Journal of Dermatology in March this year. The study compared the MoleMap system with a face-to-face consultation with a dermatologist. The results indicated overall parity and in some cases the teledermatology diagnostic technology was superior to that of a conventional in-person approach.
The new MoleMap approach to identifying melanomas with teledermatology is now being considered by other New Zealand DHBs and hospitals in the United Kingdom.
MoleMap technology is currently utilised at New York University hospital as well as other prestigious international research institutions looking for ways to fight skin cancer.
Dr Mark Gray, dermatologist and Medical Director at MoleMap, says it is encouraging to see the technology being adopted by the public health system where it has real potential to improve skin cancer diagnosis and the lives of those patients suffering from it.