New AI triage community service aims to reduce delays in skin cancer detection and treatment during the COVID-19 outbreak
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) and AI specialist Skin Analytics are to pilot a new skin cancer community assessment service to safely reduce delays in skin cancer detection and treatment during the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are around 8-13 million GP appointments booked for skin cancer assessments every year across the UK. Around 16,200 people are diagnosed with melanoma, which is now the fifth most common cancer in Britain. While 2,300 people die each year, the survival rates improve significantly if the disease is caught early. By introducing a tele-dermatology service, UHB referred patients will have potentially cancerous skin lesions assessed and receive life-saving treatment sooner.
During the pilot, referred patients will be provided with skin cancer triage outside of the hospital setting, using AI technology to capture high quality images of those lesions which may be melanoma and requiring priority investigation by a Dermatologist, and those that are safe to defer according to the BAD guidelines. The service will help flatten the demand curve to manage the ongoing clinical risk when social isolation measures are lifted, and the latent demand is released.
If the pilot proves to be successful, it will be considered if this model of care can be continued past the Coronavirus pandemic for the benefit of patients in the future.
Nick Barlow, Director of Applied Digital Health, UHB said: “Identifying patients with melanoma over the coming weeks or months and providing treatment sooner will provide significant benefits. Managing the clinical risk and finding the patients who need treatment for melanoma will also be a key focus for hospitals well beyond the COVID-19 crisis. I’m incredibly proud of the way the UHB team worked with Skin Analytics to safely design and launch this pilot in just a few short weeks.”
The AI triage service is powered by Skin Analytics DERM solution, a clinically validated, CE certified medical solution that can identify 11 lesion types including Melanoma, Non-Melanoma skin cancers, Precancerous lesions and benign lesions.
Neil Daly, CEO of Skin Analytics said: “The AI triage pathway delivers two benefits for the health system through capacity and demand management for dermatology cancer services. It has been an incredible effort to get this service ready so quickly and is a great example of how well the NHS is responding to the challenge of Covid-19.”
Patients who are concerned about a skin lesion or mole can be signposted to attend the skin cancer triage service. Patients attend the clinic, which has been set up so that the trust’s clinical photographers work with Skin Analytics to safely capture an image of the patient’s lesion which is then assessed by the AI solution and if the lesion is determined to be cancerous, a Dermatologist will remotely review and place the patient on the correct treatment pathway.