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New digital platform set to transform urgent suspected skin cancer referrals in Lancashire and South Cumbria



A new digital dermatology platform is set to cut waiting times for patients with suspected skin cancer and better manage demand across acute dermatology departments in Lancashire and South Cumbria. 

The new technology, called Pathpoint eDerma, is being funded for three years by Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, part of the Integrated Care Board, to support the roll-out of teledermatology and introduce a centralised triage service for urgent suspected skin cancer.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) is the first acute trust in the area to begin using the platform to support the development of its in-house teledermatology services.

Mr Ken McAlister, Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at ELHT said: “I’m very pleased that we have been able to introduce Pathpoint eDerma to dermatology teams across Lancashire and South Cumbria: this holistic, digital approach will enable us to prioritise face-to-face appointments with consultants for the patients that need it the most and harness our joint resources to level out demand in the most pressurised periods.

“Demand for suspected skin cancer referrals has never been so high –  of the one million referrals into dermatology each year, nationally, about half are urgent skin cancer referrals.

“In Lancashire and South Cumbria, we see around 23,000 patients per year on the urgent suspected skin cancer pathway, which used to be known as the two-week wait pathway.

“This leads to longer waiting times for patients and a stressful working environment for colleagues.

“Ultimately, this new system is about offering the most timely and appropriate point of care for our patients, enabling them to avoid the worry of an urgent suspected skin cancer referral if it’s not necessary, and when it is, making their experience as smooth and swift as possible.”

Teledermatology sees a healthcare professional take a high-quality image of a patient’s possibly cancerous skin lesion.

A skin cancer specialist can then review patient images remotely, in this case via the Pathpoint eDerma platform, to determine whether a lesion may be cancerous and if the patient needs a face-to-face examination.

The approach therefore reduces demand for acute in-person appointments and subsequent waiting times from referral to diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment.

In a second phase, Pathpoint eDerma will be used to enable centralised triage whereby patient images taken by healthcare professionals will be reviewed by a centralised triage team, which will determine whether they should be referred to community dermatology, managed by primary care, discharged for self-care or referred to secondary care for further investigation.

The system could reduce urgent suspected skin cancer referrals into secondary care by 40 per cent a year.

This will better ensure that the most acutely unwell patients can be seen and diagnosed more quickly and reduces worry and unnecessary hospital appointments for patients without a skin cancer diagnosis.

ELHT has also started offering image capture clinics for teledermatology in Pennine Lancashire’s Community Diagnostic Centres, further reducing demand on secondary care and offering the service closer to home.

Michael Shenouda, Chief Commercial Officer at Open Medical, comments on the launch: “We are delighted to see the launch of Pathpoint eDerma in partnership with the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

“This represents a significant leap forward in managing the demand for skin cancer referrals, improving efficiency and delivering more timely care to patients, by focusing on the core aspects of the patient pathway that matter the most to patients and their healthcare professionals.

“The project will aim to reduce the burden on secondary care, while providing real-time visibility on all potential cancer patients going through the pathway, to ensure timely diagnosis and intervention for all who need it.

“We are committed to supporting Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance in their mission to transform dermatology services and look forward to seeing the positive impact of our technology in the community.”

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