Diagnostic Accuracy for Skin Cancer Among Non-Doctors

This month, we explore the issue of diagnostic accuracy for skin cancer among non-doctors. I think this is a really interesting topic because we know that many GPs and dermatologists in Australia use nurses and other non-medical practitioners to screen patients for skin cancer.

Personally, I worked in rural Africa in a “mission” hospital for 10 years. Most of the time we had few doctors, and many nurses were superb at diagnosis and treatment. For example, we had a program for advanced midwives and also primary care nurses. Many graduates of these programs were outstanding.

In the US, many of you will know that nurse practitioners and physician assistants play a key role in the health system.

In this paper, a comparison was made of diagnostic accuracy among physician assistants and board-certified dermatologists. The paper shows – unsurprisingly – that physician assistants were less accurate than dermatologists. But, if you look closely, you can see that the differences are small.

What is your practice? Do you use non-medical staff in any aspect of your workflow? Maybe you use a nurse to do an initial screen that you then check?

My view – it is all about the training and the supervision.

Professor David Wilkinson


Read more from Professor David Wilkinson on recent research:


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