A dermatology program for underserved communities helps primary care physicians better diagnose and treat skin conditions, research shows.
Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine looked at data from its Dermatology Extension for Community Health Outcomes (ECHO) project and found that primary care physician participation in the project improves the accuracy and timeliness of dermatology diagnoses.
“Early and accurate diagnosis of skin cancer is key to saving lives,” says Mirna Becevic, assistant professor of telemedicine and lead evaluator for ECHO’s Show-Me Dermatology project. “Access to dermatology remains a challenge for many patients, particularly in rural areas, so it is critical that primary care physicians have access to tools to more accurately diagnose and treat dermatological conditions.”
ECHO is an education and mentoring model that connects primary care providers and other clinicians with experts via video conference. Physicians can refer misdiagnosed patient cases to dermatology experts through the ECHO program for assistance in accurately diagnosing conditions.
The world’s first ECHO Dermatology started at the University of Missouri and has since been implemented in seven countries.
Becevic’s team looked at 524 cases of de-identified patients brought to the ECHO Dermatology program since 2015 and found:
- less than 40% of primary care provider initial diagnoses were accurate,
- A third of patients were initially misdiagnosed by the primary care provider,
- and in 16% of cases the dermatology experts agreed with the primary care physician’s initial treatment plan.
Through the ECHO dermatology program, misdiagnoses are corrected, and appropriate treatments are recommended. These results are similar to those from a 2019 study.
“Dermatology professionals must be innovative and adaptive to expand access to lifesaving treatment in underserved areas,” says senior author Karen Edison, senior medical director of the Missouri Telehealth Network, Show-Me ECHO and the Center for Policy Health.
“ECHO Dermatology provides specialized care at the right time and place for more patients. We hope that our findings will encourage wider adoption and participation of innovative strategies, including ECHO and teledermatology, which are still underutilized.”
The new study appears in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest related to the study.
Source: University of Missouri