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Visual Training is Important for Teaching Health Professionals to Detect, Categorize and Identify Skin Lesions

A team researchers at the University of Alberta has determined that there’s much room for improvement in how health professionals are trained when it comes to detecting, categorizing and identifying skin lesions. In a new meta-analysis, published in JAMA Dermatology, the researchers found that many traditional methods of teaching focus on what some would argue are the least important aspects of the job.

Early detection, correct categorization, and accurate identification are pivotal for the successful treatment of skin diseases. According to the authors, primary care providers have difficulty differentiating benign skin lesions from melanomas, resulting in unnecessary excisions and referrals, and medical students have difficulty learning to identify even a small number of common lesions. For example, in one evaluation of a dermatology elective, medical students identified on average 3 of 25 lesions at pretest and 8 of 25 at posttest. This gain yielded a large mean difference, yet after 4 weeks of intensive training, participants remained unable to identify 17 of 25 common lesions.

“The conventional sense of how this should be taught is by giving people factual knowledge about skin and its normal and abnormal development. We were surprised to see that there was very little effort to stress the visual part of this task. There was very little organized and systematic effort to train people’s visual systems to discriminate between two things that look a lot alike,” says Liam Rourke, an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry’s Department of Medicine at the University of Alberta.

Based on the results of the study, Rourke’s team is developing perceptual training modules they hope to test through further studies.

Byline: Wendy Meltzer, MPH


Adapted from the original article and media release.

[image by C.P. Storm]

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