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Dermatology Photo Triage Pathway

About Dermatology Photo Triage Pathway

Approximately half of all dermatology referrals are for the diagnosis and management of skin cancer. There are in excess of 50,000 dermatology referrals annually across Northern Ireland.

The Dermatology Photo Triage Pathway was initially launched in 2018 as a Pilot in the Mid Ulster and South Belfast Federation Areas and following approval of the business case by the Department of Health the pathway has been rolled out to GP Practices across 17 GP Federations, having signed up to the service.  This was completed in July 2022.

The Dermatology Photo Triage Pathway will significantly speed up the process of identifying and treating suspicious moles or skin irregularities.

Rather than referring a patient for an outpatient appointment, digital images are taken in the GP practice and sent directly to a dermatologist, who then decides whether the patient needs further assessment.

The Purpose of the Dermatology Photo Triage Pathway

The  initiative gives patients with suspected skin cancer access to a rapid, high quality consultant assessment.

“Through initiatives like the Dermatology Photo Triage pathway, Primary Care will continue to transform to meet growing patient demand, with cutting-edge technology and new ways of working.” – Minister Swann

 

How the pathway referral works : what to expect at your GP Practice

Your GP will use a device with camera attachment to take pictures of your skin irregularity or mole at your initial appointment. You will be asked to give your consent for the images to be taken.

The device is preloaded with the SmartDerm App.  The images are then sent electronically from the SmartDerm App to a skin specialist (Dermatology Consultant) at a hospital.  Following transfer the images are automatically removed from the portable device.

It is important to note that at any point along this pathway, if your skin complaint is suspected of being a possible cancer or requires other urgent treatment, you will be managed through the urgent cancer “red flag” pathway instead.

Your GP will advise you at your initial appointment if you have been referred via this ‘red flag’ pathway.

All practices will be offered training on the use of the hardware and App required to make a referral via the Photo Triage Pathway.

Possible outcomes following review of your referral by the Dermatology Team

Advice and guidance
Your skin irregularity is not harmful and your GP is provided with advice and guidance to help manage your skin irregularity within your GP Practice rather than with the hospital

Further review / An appointment
You will receive an appointment for the Dermatology Team to examine your skin irregularity in more detail.  Once you have your appointment date, it is very important that you attend.

Surgery Appointment
You will receive an appointment for the Dermatology Team to take a sample (biopsy) or remove the skin irregularity to diagnose the cause of the irregularity and treat it promptly.

Onward Referral
You will receive an appointment to see a specialist in Plastic Surgery for treatment of the skin irregularity.

Working in partnership with Action Cancer