September 17, 2020
A frostbite-like rash on feet or hands is just one potential symptom of the novel coronavirus. If you search Google Images for the colloquial term, “COVID toe,” you’ll find dozens of photos of toes with reddish or purplish splotches – almost entirely on white skin. You’ll likely have to scroll and scroll before finding a single image of brown or black skin. (That is, if you find one at all.)
Systemic racism has been a focal point of the national discourse in 2020. As a result, many industries are looking inward to assess existing inequities, and healthcare is no exception. The medical education system is one root cause of racial disparities in health outcomes, according to Dr. Art Papier, a dermatologist and CEO of Aria client VisualDx, a clinical decision support system.
In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Papier discusses how underrepresentation of non-white skin in medical literature leaves many physicians ill-prepared to effectively diagnose and treat people of color in practice.
As shown by VisualDx’s images featured in the Times article, many dermatologic symptoms of diseases – like COVID toe – present differently on different skin tones. Failure to spot these differences in people of color is like, “saying you don’t know how to examine the lungs or the heart,” as Dr. Papier notes. Delayed and wrong diagnoses are among the costliest medical errors, meaning medicine’s bias toward white skin can have serious consequences for traditionally marginalized groups.
For over two decades, Dr. Papier and his team have worked to build the world’s largest, most inclusive professional medical image library to improve diagnosis and treatment of all people. And, the proof is in the platform: one recent study found that VisualDx had 28.5% dark skin images (significantly more than other commonly used medical textbooks and resources). Aria is proud to represent VisualDx and share Dr. Papier’s thought leadership on this issue, one that has been overlooked by much of the medical community for far too long.
Check out the full New York Times article here to learn more about racial disparities in dermatology and see images from VisualDx that display disease variation in black, brown and white skin.
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