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Melanoma Simulation Model With Smartphone Devices: Training Physicians to Perform Opportunistic Surveillance for Early Detection of Melanoma

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Trial Information

Melanoma Simulation Model With Smartphone Devices: Training Physicians to Perform Opportunistic Surveillance for Early Detection of Melanoma

Age-adjusted melanoma incidence among Caucasians has risen from 7.5 to 21.9 cases per
100,000 representing an increase of nearly 200% over 30 years. In contrast to other cancers
(i.e. colorectal, prostate, cervical), melanoma is detected by intentional visual skin
inspection. Intentional screening is the deliberate visual inspection of all cutaneous
surfaces. However, fewer than 30% of primary care physicians (PCPs) reported training in
skin cancer during their medical education. Early detection of melanoma by PCPs cannot be
expected to improve without addressing both the PCPs' lack of training and their low
confidence in examination skills pertaining to pigmented lesion exams. A focused
intervention is required to improve PCPs' early detection of melanoma and mitigate the
near-term consequences of an aging US population.

Opportunistic surveillance requires skills in both unaided visual inspection of the skin and
in dermoscopy of lesions. Dermoscopy—a hand-held magnifying device that assists with
diagnosis—reduces the number of unnecessary biopsies and improves the clinical sensitivity
of diagnosing melanoma. Studies show that Australian PCPs trained to use a "three-point
checklist of dermoscopy," developed biopsy ratios of benign to malignant lesions of 8:1 in
the general population, which is comparable to dermatologists using dermoscopy. In 2009, the
American Academy of Family Physicians held their first dermoscopy course at their Annual
Scientific Meeting, and there is continuing demand for similar courses. By making dermoscopy
customary for PCPs, PCPs will be able to detect melanomas opportunistically and render care
to the at-risk population of elderly for whom they provide care. Smart-touchscreen
technologies can potentially provide a safe environment for medical trainees to learn
procedural and screening skills that are rarely available opportunities in the clinic. As
such, these technologies may lead to better health outcomes in future populations.

In this study, eighty 3rd year medical and thirty 1st year physician's assistant students
participate in a visual screening and dermoscopy curriculum aimed at improving the retention
rate of the learned clinical skills. After a didactic lecture on melanoma screening,
participants are randomized to either a control or an experimental study arm for the
clinical skills workshop. The control arm represents our previously published clinical
skills training workshop (IRB STU 0002705) in which participants interact with a simulated
patient model presenting with pigment lesions and review dermoscopy images on a projector
screen. In the experimental arm, the projector-based learning approach is replaced with a
handheld touchscreen device (smartphone) preloaded with interactive melanoma screening
tutorial. The smartphone provides instant feedback and remediation of improper clinical
management decisions. Across both groups, all learning content remains similar. Further
deliberate practice questions provided to the control arm are standardized while the
experimental arm's questions are individualized based on weaknesses determined in the
smartphone software.

Inclusion Criteria

Inclusion Criteria for Evaluation of the smartphone-based dermoscopy prototype device:

- Thirty 4th year medical students and 2nd year physician assistant (PA) students with
previous experience with the Melanoma Simulation Model of the back (IRB STU00025072)

Inclusion Criteria for teaching and testing sessions with medical students and physician
assistant students:

- Eighty third-year medical students and thirty PA students

Exclusion Criteria:

- Those not meeting the above inclusion criteria

Type of Study:


Study Design:

Allocation: Randomized, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Open Label, Primary Purpose: Screening

Outcome Measure:

Evaluation of medical student's abilities to select pigmented lesions for review with dermoscopy on pre-didactic lecture test, pre-skills workshop test, and post-educational intervention test

Outcome Description:

Retention will be measured using the percent of correctly identified benign nevi, clinically suspicious lesions, and melanomas identified by unaided visual inspection and the percent of correctly identified "benign" or "refer" lesions on dermoscopy images. The biopsy ratio of benign to malignant lesions will be also be assessed to determine the sensitivity and specificity outcomes of both study arms. Other outcomes measured are the confidence with identifying melanoma, attitudes toward melanoma screening, and recall of screening rules by participants. The rates of retention in both study arms will be compared on pre-workshop test and the post-test to determine if simulation learning modules positively impact learning and retention of skin screening.

Outcome Time Frame:

Two weeks post initial didactic education

Safety Issue:


Principal Investigator

June K Robinson, MD

Investigator Role:

Principal Investigator

Investigator Affiliation:

Northwestern University Department of Dermatology


United States: Institutional Review Board

Study ID:




Start Date:

April 2013

Completion Date:

December 2013

Related Keywords:

  • Melanoma
  • Melanoma
  • Opportunistic surveillance
  • Melanoma simulation model
  • Smartphone devices
  • Melanoma



Northwestern University Department of Dermatology Chicago, Illinois  60611