Concerns over in-store skin checks

Date: Oct 24, 2014

The Australasian College of Dermatologists and the AMA (NSW) is concerned about the risk of medical negligence as in-store skin checks at pharmacies appear in more prevalence.

It is becoming common for pharmacies to offer shoppers a free or discounted check-up to analyse potential cancers and other skin disorders. However, with a lack of personal and family medical history and a thorough medical examination, it is impossible to ensure you have been adequately checked.

According to Australasian College of Dermatologists President, Associate Professor Stephen Shumack, doctors often spot potential skin problems when checking patients for other illnesses.

"This exposes the difference between doctors and pharmacists: it's a doctor's first responsibility to see to the health of their patient, while pharmacists are retailers trained in the dispensation of prescription medicine," he said.

"Aside from that, having a skin check in a doctor's surgery is far more appropriate than in the aisles between the toilet paper and toothpaste."

Mr Shumack described the in-store checks as "irresponsible" and "inappropriate" and said it isn't a procedure that the general public should want to have done in a pharmacy.

AMA NSW President Dr Saxon Smith agreed with Mr Shumack's comments and mentioned that those working in pharmacies do not often have in-depth medical training. This meant people could feel like they have been analysed by a professional and then decide to not visit their registered doctor instead.

"Skin cancer, especially melanoma, can be very difficult to diagnose and only doctors have the training and expertise to help," he said.

"Australians, especially those with fair skin, should go to their family doctor for regular skin checks."

Those with a retail background rather than medical experience are more likely to miss cancer signals and potential skin problems. They are also going to probably provide medicines such as creams and gels rather than refer you to a professional dermatologist.

Although there have been few medical negligence cases to date, the potential is certainly evident. If a patient visits one of these in-store checks and is given a clean bill of health, then develops a skin cancer, the store could find itself in trouble.

According to Mr Shumack, the suggested option is to visit your trusted doctor to perform any medical procedures.

"The next best thing you can do is to know your skin, be observant of changes and to have regular skin checks from your family doctor," he concluded.

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