Patients with skin complaints will be able to upload images of their conditions to a new virtual platform that will connect them directly to clinicians.

Dermatologists will be able view the pictures on the new portal and provide expert support to patients without them having to leave home.

The Lenus Health platform is set to launch across Scotland after successful trials in three regional health boards – NHS Forth Valley, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and NHS Grampian.

Using their smartphone, tablet or computer patients register for the service and are invited to virtual digital appointments which are open for several days. During the appointment period the patient securely submits images of their skin condition, like a flare up, rash or change in a mole.

In addition, the patient completes questions and provides details of any treatments. The service is used for new and return appointments. The images and answers are assessed remotely by dermatologists, without having to see the patient in person or via video link.

Dermatologists can ‘chat’ with the patient via secure two-way messaging to ask follow-up questions. They then advise the patient what action to take, which could be a prescription change, referral to another department or invite for a further virtual follow-up or physical examination. Many cases can be discharged without further action.

The digital service has been pioneered by Edinburgh-based tech agency Storm ID and is part of a ‘Small Business Research Initiative’ funded challenge.

This new approach offers a quick and convenient way for patients to ‘attend’ digital appointments using their own devices. They don’t need to travel to face-to-face appointments, or enter clinics or hospitals, which is particularly valuable during Covid-19.

Patients surveyed during the trial remarked that this is ‘a fantastic service that has a huge benefit for people that might struggle to make face to face appointments’ and ‘this saves me taking time off work and I don’t have to drive around looking for a parking space’.

The scale up is being made possible with the support of the Modernising Patient Pathways Programme, Scottish Government and NHS National Services Scotland.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is forcing clinicians to think differently. The scale up of Digital Dermatology Assessments will help us reach more patients across Scotland, resulting in quicker diagnosis and improvement in quality of referrals to other services. From our trial, we know digital appointments take less time, typically around 7 minutes, which is good for both patients and clinicians,” said Colin Morton, Consultant Dermatologist at NHS Forth Valley.

Jeane Freeman, Scottish health secretary, added: “Supporting patients by offering more choice and flexibility over how they access health services has been crucial during the pandemic. I welcome the development and national roll-out of the Digital Dermatology Assessment system which will continue to improve patients access to services now and in the future.”