Sim-U-Skin

High fidelity skin models to transform dermatology education

Timeline

2020 - ongoing

Team

Mater Dermatology
NCAD

Partners

HSE Spark Innovation
Mater Hospital Foundation
City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity
Department of Public Service and Reform
(Public Service Innovation Fund)

Challenge

An estimated 15-20% of GP consultations relate specifically to skin, yet it is recognised internationally that GPs generally lack adequate training in dermatology.

A key challenge is the fact that dermatology is a highly visual and tactile field — there is a limit to what trainees can gain from textbooks and lectures, even with high quality photos.

Traditionally, effective teaching relies on the learner seeing real patients but realistically, it is not practical for large volumes of trainees to attend clinics long enough to gain the knowledge they need.

Outcome

To explore potential solutions to this challenge, we connected Mater Dermatology with the Medical Device Design team at NCAD.

This has led to the development of a groundbreaking teaching aid consisting of 25 3D skin models, organised within a
book set.
Unlike most traditional 2D teaching tools, the detail in these models enables the learner to appreciate primary and secondary changes, configuration of the rash or lesion, colour and depth of colour, surface texture, relevance of site and ultimately, differential diagnosis.

No other teaching tools offer this level of fidelity in terms of visual and tactile features.
The models and teaching booklets are now ready for testing and roll out. We anticipate that they will increase confidence and competence in the management of common skin conditions among practising GPs as well as undergraduate and postgraduate trainees.

Process

The first iteration of the skin models was developed by a team of Masters level designers working in close collaboration with consultant dermatologist, Dr Patsy Lenane.

This team created a set of three high fidelity skin models of the most commonly seen skin diseases - psoriasis, melanoma and eczema. The quality of the tools that the team created surpassed all expectations.
Recognising the significant potential of these high fidelity teaching aids, Dr. Lenane, supported by Mater Transformation, secured funding to continue the work.

As of April 2023, the team has developed high fidelity 3D models of 25 common skin conditions along with moulds to enable reproduction of the models at scale. Each skin condition is housed in a booklet with explanatory text alongside, enabling diagnosis and guiding treatment. 

Dr. Lenane is now testing the models and teaching booklets in undergraduate and postgraduate medical teaching programmes.

Goal

The lack of dermatology training ultimately creates an over-reliance on seeking an expert opinion from hospital dermatology departments rather than GPs making their own diagnosis, which in turn contributes to lengthy waiting lists. In fact, the HSE National Clinical Programme for Dermatology (2022) identifies a pressing need to “build more skills and competencies in all stakeholders in the management of skin problems especially in primary and community care”.

By addressing the challenges with dermatology education, our novel teaching aid will help to manage how skin conditions are treated across the healthcare system.