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Social media skin diagnoses comparably accurate to teledermatology

Photo by: Ibrahim.ID via Wikimedia Commons

A new study suggests that for general practitioners (GPs), crowdsourcing common dermatologic diagnoses from medical peers on social media could be as effective as sourcing diagnoses through dedicated store-and-forward teledermatology systems (TDS). Published in the Annals of Family Medicine (Jan. 2021; 19(1):24-29), the study included images published on Twitter and MedPics—a private social networking site for doctors—by GPs in 2016. The investigators had the contextualized images evaluated by two teledermatology services in Paris, as well as by an expert committee. They also collected diagnoses for each image obtained from telemedicine on social networks, TDS, and the expert committee. Some GPs in France have turned to social media for help diagnosing common dermatologic conditions through posting deidentified photos of their patients’ skin conditions, according to the study authors. This was the inspiration for this research. The researchers found that the diagnoses suggested by doctors on social media generally agreed with teledermatology results. These diagnoses were even more strongly aligned when dermatologists were active in the crowdsourced response. When the images posted to social media were reviewed by an expert committee of dermatologists, the primary diagnoses from social media were accurate roughly 60% of the time. In comparison, the conventional teledermatology consultations were correct approximately 55% of the time, with no significant difference between the two studied methods. These results suggest that social media can be as useful as teledermatology services for doctors when diagnosing common and minor dermatologic conditions, but consultation with an expert dermatologist may still be necessary, according to the paper's authors. The authors also note that social media is less secure than standard medical communications technologies and that Twitter and other public platforms do not take the same measures to protect the privacy of patients.

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