Dermoscopy use in primary care: a qualitative study with general practitioners

Jonathan A. Fee*, Finbar P. McGrady, Nigel D. Hart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
153 Downloads (Pure)


Abstract: Background: Skin assessments constitute a significant proportion of consultations with family physicians (commonly called general practitioners or GPs in the UK), and referrals to hospital dermatology departments have risen significantly in recent years. Research has shown that dermoscopy use may help GPs to assess and triage skin lesions, including suspected skin cancers, more accurately. However, dermoscopy is used by a small minority of GPs in the UK. Previous questionnaire studies have aimed to establish in a limited way some perceptions of dermoscopy among GPs: this study aimed to explore more deeply the factors influencing the use of dermoscopy among GPs. Methods: This was a qualitative interview study set in UK general practice. A purposive sample was taken of GPs who were established dermoscopy users, GPs who had recently adopted dermoscopy, and those who did not use dermoscopy. A total of twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted. Audio-recordings were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke). Results: GPs’ capability to use dermoscopy necessitated receiving adequate training, while previous dermatology experience and support from colleagues were also considered factors that enabled dermoscopy use. The impact of dermoscopy on patient consultations about skin complaints was generally considered to be positive, as was having an ‘in-house’ dermoscopy user within a GP practice to refer patients to. However, training in dermoscopy was not considered a priority for many GPs either due to other more pressing concerns within their practices or the perceived complexity of dermoscopy, alongside barriers such as equipment costs. Significant ethical concerns with posting patient photographs online for training and teaching purposes were also highlighted. Conclusions: Both GPs who use dermoscopy, and those who do not, consider it to have an important role in improving skin assessments within primary care. However the need for adequate training in dermoscopy and dermatology more generally was highlighted as a key barrier to its wider use. The development of competency standards for the use of dermoscopy could allow the adequacy of training to be assessed and developed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number47
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Primary Care
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022


  • Research
  • General Practice
  • Family Practice
  • Dermoscopy
  • Dermatology
  • Melanoma
  • Qualitative research


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