May 17, 2020

Drawbacks Of Community-Centric Health Forums

community forums
online forums
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4 min
Community Centered Health Forums May Give Bad Advice
In our phenomenally connected world, knowledge is at everyones fingertips. This is especially helpful where healthcare is concerned. Shared knowledge a...

In our phenomenally connected world, knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips. This is especially helpful where healthcare is concerned. Shared knowledge and experiences not only make us better informed, but also more empowered to counter possible abuses, mistreatments and unjust practices. However, the information explosion also comes with its own evil. Public forums are a great source for information and as support groups, but, more than often, also a source for misinformation.

This problem is more pronounced in case of advice on sports, nutrition and the likes. For medicines and serious complications, everyone prefers to get specialist advice, but things like sports, health, exercise and fitness; which are considered as ‘lighter issues’, are usually dealt with less seriously.

“It Worked For Me, Buddy”

While community-based healthcare services depend more on actual medical advice, when it comes to sports and fitness, it is often less formal. Of course, having a swimming pool or a skating rink where kids can engage in extra-curricular activities and interact socially is great, and may also have the benefit of expert supervision.

But when things are discussed in a forum, be it online or offline, everyone becomes an expert. Which is mainly because most have engaged in such activities as kids, or accompany their children to such activities. Sharing experience is very helpful, but experience is also a subjective matter. So, some may insist that it is best to make eight-year olds run 10 laps around the soccer field to build thigh muscles; while the next person may be equally adamant that working out and playing in the backyard is the better way. While the self-appointed experts at best may come to some ego clash, it becomes extremely confused for those who came looking for some advice.

No Expert Advice

A forum, unless specified otherwise, is a place where everybody is equal; except may be the moderator. However, like any other advice forums, a community-based forum is rarely under expert supervision. In matters related to sports or nutrition, people usually stick to conventional wisdom, mostly, that which runs into the family. Everyone may be welcome to air their views, but only an expert can speak with authority on some subject. Respecting everyone’s beliefs is a tricky thing to do, and it is doubly dangerous to insist that a particular suggestion may be completely at odds to what is medically sound.

This becomes especially pertinent when a community has a leaning to a certain faith. For example, a discussion on eating meat may be a minefield in a forum where majority of the members share a faith which prohibits eating meat.

Better managed community forums have the benefit of expert guidance and surveillance, but sadly, for most other forums, expert advice is an exception and a privilege, and not a mandatory thing. This is nearly impossible online.

Misinformation Unlimited

This is something which comes as a given today, and is especially rampant online. The information explosion has also led to formation of numerous portals that are dens of false facts, fraudulent statistics and hokey gurus. Nutrition and exercise are two areas where almost everyone have an opinion, and even things that are passed off as ‘expert advice’ are often unfounded and contradictory.

For example, a certain popular lifestyle website recently hosted an article on foods that helps one lose weight. However, the article mentioned that potatoes are a must for those who want to shed weight. All nutritionists and doctors recommend avoiding potatoes if one wants to become slimmer, and it is strictly prohibited for diabetics. Similarly, almost everywhere on the internet one can find tips on proper workout regimens. In many forums, for example, people are encouraged to do cardio exercises, while qualified trainers insist that each individual needs a different workout, and for people suffering from certain ailments, cardios are a strict no-no.

Online forums, as one can guess, are particularly vulnerable to misinformation. The internet is also plagued by trolls, and if that happens in a community-based forum, there can be serious repercussions.

While sports, fitness and nutrition are things that are taken less seriously, these are not to be dealt with lightly. These are integral parts of our lifestyle, and misinformd, unsupervised advice can be extremely harmful since these aspects have long-lasting implications. Lifestyle diseases, like diabetes are on a global rise, and community-based or otherwise, nothing less than a qualified opinion and sustainable practices will do.

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Jun 18, 2021

Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool 

2 min
Skin Analytics uses AI to detect skin cancer and will be deployed across the NHS to ease patient backlogs

An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system. 

NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion. 

Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making. 

In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog. 

Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening. 

DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.

Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges. 

"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”

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