By Art Papier, MD, for Practical Dermatology (NOVEMBER 16, 2020)
There is a constant demand in public health to address diagnostic decision-making broadly and not focus solely on the diagnosis of the moment. Nearly 20 years ago, health systems and government agencies realized clinicians’ need for accurate and timely information to assist infectious disease diagnosis and surveillance following the threat of bioterrorism triggered by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as well as anthrax spread via the US mail.
Today, clinicians need to recognize COVID-19 as well as all the other diseases that are in the differential diagnoses of fever, cough, abdominal pain, headache, loss of sense of taste or smell, rash of toes, and more. Skin is the window into a person’s overall health. Still, generalists receive an average of 21 hours of training in dermatology, making it difficult for them to accurately diagnose skin conditions and their corresponding illnesses.
As dermatologists, we should be empowering all front-line health care clinicians with tools and knowledge that will help them make better decisions in the exam room, whether in person or via telemedicine. Recognizing the cutaneous signs and symptoms of infectious diseases is key in early diagnosis and harm reduction.