May 15, 2019

Why dermatologists should not wait to go digital

HEALTHCARE 3 min read

Big changes are facing the field of dermatology: algorithms are being developed to identify skin cancer, robotics can help automate laser treatment, and more dermatology services are being offered online. Still, many dermatologists remain hesitant about this digital evolution. For them, concerns about patient privacy, financial risks and medical compliance are outbalancing the benefits of digitization.

Digital dermoscopy

In dermoscopy, specifically, this scrutiny is fueled by the rise of mobile apps and smartphone add-ons that claim to be able to identify skin diseases. Needless to say, consumer devices are not at all fit for medical applications and the workflow inherent to skin examinations.

At the other end of the spectrum are the cart-based digital dermoscopy solutions. Fit for medical use but bulky, expensive and not portable, they are typically used in hospitals while private practice dermatologists often stick to their traditional, analog dermatoscope.

A missed opportunity, as the benefits of digitization are enormous. Healthcare sectors that have embraced the digitization trend, such as surgery and radiology, have seen significant improvements in terms of clinical efficiency, staff productivity and health outcomes. Beyond doubt, the digitization of dermoscopy is coming. So you should get prepared. But how?

Things to consider
  • Portability
    • Digital skin imaging does not require bulky, heavy equipment such as servers and medical carts. Modern cloud-based solutions can offer all the functionality you need in a flexible, wireless handheld device.  
  • Workflow
    • With portability comes more flexibility. No need to move your patients from one room to the other. Instead, take the device to wherever your patients are.
    • The latest digital dermatoscopes have been specifically designed for the dermatologist’s way of working.  They offer the ability to take both clinical and dermoscopic images with the same device. No need to switch lenses, use an additional analog dermatoscope or an external camera during patient exams.
    • A true digital workflow eliminates the need for administrative or clinical staff to sort and store images. All data is uploaded automatically – and securely – to the cloud.
  • Documentation & follow-up
    • Easy storage options result in accurate image documentation. This is important in order to compare images over time. Too many dermatologists today still make decisions based on descriptions as opposed to prior images of skin lesions.
    • Check if the dermatology solution offers the ability to track lesions over time. The best solutions can map how lesions evolve by enabling intuitive comparison of images (e.g. taken now vs 6 months ago or dermoscopic vs. clinical).
  • Ergonomics
    • Choose a flexible, wireless device that fits comfortably in your hand for fluent operation.
    • Devices designed with ergonomics in mind can help reduce back and neck pain.
    • Digital solutions with an integrated display eliminate the need to look into a bright light.
    • In addition, inspecting lesions on-screen – and not with the naked eye – allows you to focus while maintaining a comfortable distance when screening patients.
    • Accessories such as a non-contact cone can be useful when examining elevated skin lesions. These also allow better observation of vascular patterns.
  • Accessibility
    • Good medical equipment doesn’t come cheap. However, digital licensing or service models for skin imaging tools don’t require heavy upfront investments. Instead, you just pay for what you need via a monthly fee.
    • Service models also eliminate financial risk in case of a technical issue. Upfront swap and next-day delivery of the latest model are guaranteed. 
    • There should be no hidden costs for image storage or upgrades. Pay-as-a-service means that everything is covered in a fixed fee, from hardware and software upgrades to access to the latest features.
  • Scalability
    • A digital service model gives you easy access to the most recent hardware and software updates.
    • Check if there are additional options that allow you to scale as your own usage grows in terms of user licenses, new functionality and image processing, for example.
  • Fit for medical use
    • Public/consumer cloud solutions are inadequate when it comes to security and patient privacy. The cloud environment should be secured, including authentication and data encryption.
    • Dermatoscopes are used for medical purposes and therefore should have the required medical approvals and certifications.
    • A special non-contact cone or spacer ensures optimal hygiene when screening inflammatory or infectious lesions.
    • Devices made of cleanable, biocompatible plastics help ensure patient safety.
Barco Demetra: a revolutionary digital skin imaging platform.

Barco Demetra™ is a revolutionary skin imaging platform co-developed with leading dermatologists. It combines the best of analog and digital skin imaging in a flexible, wireless handheld device. It allows dermatologists to take any kind of picture and makes mapping, follow-up and comparison of skin images smoother and smarter. Demetra is a platform that will evolve over time. We are continuously working on new groundbreaking capabilities, including deep learning algorithms, all developed to improve the quality of skin diagnoses. Find out more at Barco Demetra