STUDIO / DESIGNER
Dr Patsy Lenane & Sean Gallagher
Design Education and Research
Dr Patsy Lenane, Consultant Dermatologist (Project Lead, Mater Hospital)
Sean Gallagher (Lead Designer)
Mater Transformation (Support team, Mater Hospital)
Isabella Utria (Graphic Designer)
Enda O’ Dowd (NCAD Design Labs)
Derek Vallence (NCAD Design Labs)
Project Funded by the following contributors:
- HSE Spark Innovation
- Mater Hospital Foundation
- City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity
- Department of Public Service and Reform (Public Service Innovation Fund)
Design Challenge and Design Ideas
An estimated 15-20% of GP consultations relate specifically to skin, yet it is recognised internationally that GPs generally lack adequate training in dermatology.
A key challenge is the fact that dermatology is a highly visual and tactile field — there is a limit to what trainees can gain from textbooks and lectures, even with high quality photos.
Traditionally, effective teaching relies on the learner seeing real patients but realistically, it is not practical for large volumes of trainees to attend clinics long enough to gain the knowledge they need.
Sim-U-Skin aims to empower GP’s and medical students with an educational resource which provides confidence in diagnosing dermatological conditions they encounter in their daily working environment and allow them to effectively treat them rather than referring to overcrowded hospital waiting lists.
How the brief was fulfilled
The lack of dermatology training ultimately creates an over-reliance on seeking an expert opinion from hospital dermatology departments rather than GPs making their own diagnosis, which in turn contributes to lengthy waiting lists. In fact, the HSE National Clinical Programme for Dermatology (2022) identifies a pressing need to “build more skills and competencies in all stakeholders in the management of skin problems especially in primary and community care”. By addressing the challenges with dermatology education, Sim-U-Skin proposes a novel teaching aid will help to manage how skin conditions are treated across the healthcare system.
To explore potential solutions to this challenge, the connection was made between the Mater Dermatology and the Medical Device Design team at NCAD Design Lab. This has led to the development of a groundbreaking teaching aid consisting of 25 3D skin models, organised within a book set.
Unlike most traditional 2D teaching tools, the detail in these models enables the learner to appreciate primary and secondary changes, configuration of the rash or lesion, colour and depth of colour, surface texture, relevance of site and ultimately, differential diagnosis. No other teaching tools offer this level of fidelity in terms of visual and tactile features.
As of April 2023, the team has developed high fidelity 3D models of 25 common skin conditions along with moulds to enable reproduction of the models at scale. Each skin condition is housed in a booklet with explanatory text alongside, enabling diagnosis and guiding treatment. Dr. Lenane is now testing the models and book set in undergraduate and postgraduate medical teaching programmes.
Sim-U-Skin has endeavoured to incorporate the principles of Universal design; Equitable Use, Flexibility of Use, Simple and Intuitive Use and Perceptible information. Recognising the diverse and large user base this educational tool must provide for. Care has been taken to ensure that language used in the booklets has been arranged according to their educational requirements and presented to be accessible. The project has incorporated skin of colour education which can visually appear or present differently for the same conditions. This is not traditional thought in Irish and UK medical education.
This collaboration has brought design into the front lines of the day to day running in an incredibly busy medical facility demonstrating the direct impact design is having on reducing waiting lists, reducing cost, increasing patient compliance and allowing for more impactful patient outcomes. The SimUSkin team has been derived from a number of diverse professional Irish networks blending special effects, medical device design, visual design, consultant medical practitioner and medical service innovators.
Recognising the significant potential of these high fidelity teaching aids, Dr. Lenane, supported by Mater Transformation and NCAD Design Labs, secured funding to continue the work by hiring a full time designer to be based within the Mater hospital and expand SimUSkin into a teaching aid consisting of 25 models, organised within a book set.
The collaboration allowed a research process between Designer, Patient and Consultant to be highly iterative. The development of realistic samples along with visual development of supplementary educational material, has been produced at their core to be universal, meeting the informational requirement of all the user groups. The diversity of the user’s groups can be categorised into educators, students and patients. SimUSkin as a realised product provides for GP Trainers schemes, GP Trainees, Medical students and allows for an open dialog between patients and practitioners when discussing treatment.
Participants whose background is not design, who immersed themselves in design research through SimUSkin have learned to trust the design processes. Showing that diverse healthcare teams can distil complex problems so that they can develop and deliver solutions that work for everyone.
”Mater Transformation is a dedicated unit embedded within a hospital that works closely with frontline staff empowering them to collectively make sense of problems so we can codesign and deliver lasting, high impact solutions”
Excellent innovation of teaching tools that offer high level of fidelity in terms of visual and tactile feature. Excellent piece of design. Direct impact is reducing waiting lists, reducing cost, increasing patient compliance and allowing for more impactful patient outcomes."