Digital image referral for suspected skin malignancy--a pilot study of 300 patients

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2009 Aug;62(8):1048-53. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2008.02.005. Epub 2008 Oct 10.


Referral of suspect skin cancers as well as non malignant symptomatic skin lesions using high quality digital images transferred via a secure electronic referral system (ERS) potentially offers significant advantages regarding speed of referral, diagnosis and subsequent treatment over conventional pathways. However concerns over safety of the diagnostic process have been raised. This prospective study looks at 300 patients referred by ERS. A comparison of the diagnoses made from digital images with the diagnoses confirmed on pathology reports for lesions excised is described using a random selection of patients' images and referrals. Intra observer analysis of was also assessed. A sample group of patients with lesions deemed as benign, not requiring surgery or other treatment and therefore not seen in secondary care were revisited at a special clinic to determine the safety of the referral system. In this series of 300 patients the study concludes that digital image referral for skin malignancy and other cutaneous lesions reduced the interval between referral and diagnosis by 81% and referral to commencement of treatment in suspect lesions by 30%. Diagnostic accuracy in a random sample of 30 patients was comparable to that reported for patients seen in face to face consultations. High levels of GP and patient satisfaction were recorded. In conclusion digital image referral for skin malignancy and other cutaneous lesions is a safe and cost effective referral pathway, significantly reducing the interval between referral diagnosis and onset of treatment for skin malignancy.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Photography
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation*