By Jennifer Lubell (APRIL 22, 2021)
Studies are flagging racial and ethnic disparities in rheumatology training materials, pointing to a need to boost representation of darker skin tones and better educate physicians in evaluating this cohort.
Not enough is known about these disparities in rheumatology education, despite the fact that minorities make up 40% of the population in the United States.
The problem starts with books and references used in medical schools, Lynn McKinley-Grant, MD, immediate past president of the Skin of Color Society and associate professor of dermatology at Howard University, Washington, said in an interview. “In the medical literature there has been a dearth of images in skin of color in all specialties,” she said. With an increased diversity in the U.S. population, there is a need for health care providers to be able to recognize disease patterns in all skin types.” If a physician is training at an institution where there are not many patients of color in the community, the rheumatologists are even more limited in terms of their clinical experience.
Technologies Seek to Reduce Bias
While many organizations are taking steps to improve representation of darker skin images, VisualDx has taken the lead on this, she said. “They’ve been doing this for years now. There are over 14,000 images of disease in skin of color, including all the rheumatologic diseases. There’s a mobile app and desktop decision support system, and it is very popular. A majority of medical schools have this as a library resource, and hospital systems license it for EHR integration.” Doctors can also get it individually. This enables them to share images and handouts of a diagnosis and select images of patients of color, said McKinley-Grant, who uses the VisualDx smartphone app DermExpert, which is an app for nondermatologists that features an image library of skin lesions, including darker-skin images.