New partnership aims to improve access and reduce wait times, alleviating toll on patients
A crisis of long waits for dermatology appointments causes emotional, financial and physical stress for patients and caregivers, according to a new report released today by the Greater Access for Patients Partnership (GAPP). Patient wait times for an appointment with a dermatology professional have increased steadily during the past decade and now average more than a month, though many patients could wait almost a year for an appointment.1,2
Lengthy delays for both new and returning dermatology patients have become the norm. The average wait time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is 78 days and even worse is Cedar Rapids, Iowa at 91 days. Lack of timely access to care is especially severe for rural patients and ethnic minorities, who experience higher rates of melanoma mortality.3,4 Demand for dermatology services will only continue to increase with a lagging supply of new dermatologists, an aging U.S. population and rising rates of skin diseases.5,6
According to the report, 91 percent of patients said their skin condition impacted their daily life. Fifty-eight percent worried that their skin condition would worsen while waiting, and half of the patients surveyed experienced anxiety from their untreated skin condition while waiting for care.2
“I waited four months for an examination of a suspicious mole, which eventually resulted in my first melanoma diagnosis,” said Tracy Callahan, CEO and Founder of Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation, a GAPP member organization. “Fortunately, my cancer remained in the early stages, but it’s possible for melanoma to progress rapidly over a few months, which is one reason GAPP emphasizes the urgency of resolving long dermatology wait times. The crisis is worse for rural Americans, who often drive hours or wait for the better part of a year for a dermatology appointment.”
GAPP supports several solutions that have been shown to shorten dermatology wait times and increase access to care, including greater overall use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners, efforts to increase diagnostic confidence in primary care physicians and the use of telemedicine.7,8
“SDPA is proud to play a leading role in the formation of GAPP,” said Joleen Volz, president of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA). “GAPP aims to shed greater light on clinically proven solutions that can diminish wait times and broaden access to expert dermatology care for all patients.”
Other findings highlighted in the report include: 2
- Four in 10 patients report waiting between one and six months for a dermatology appointment
- Patients reported an average wait of six weeks for a follow-up appointment
- Long wait times was the top reason among caregivers for their loved ones not visiting a dermatology provider
- Over 70 percent of patients wished their wait times were shorter
GAPP is a coalition of leading professional and patient organizations that aims to improve the dermatology wait times crisis and support access to quality care. Members of GAPP include American Academy of PAs, AIM at Melanoma, The American Health Quality Association, Derma Care Access Network, Dermatology Nurses’ Association, Melanoma Research Alliance, National Eczema Association, National Alopecia Areata Foundation, Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation and Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants.
The full report, entitled Patients Are Waiting: America’s Dermatology Wait Times Crisis, is available here.
1 Merritt Hawkins. 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times. 2017.
2 Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants. 2018; Data on file.
3 Suneja T, Smith ED, Chen GJ, Zipperstein KJ, Fleischer, Jr AB, Feldman SR. Waiting Times to See a Dermatologist Are Perceived as Too Long by Dermatologists Implications for the Dermatology Workforce. Arch Dermatol. 2001;137(10):1303–1307. doi:10.1001/archderm.137.10.1303.
4 Buster KJ, Stevens EI, Elmets CA. Dermatologic health disparities. Dermatol Clin. 2012;30(1):53-9, viii.
5 Glazer AM, Farberg AS, Winkelmann RR, Rigel DS. Analysis of Trends in Geographic Distribution and Density of US Dermatologists . JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(4):322–325. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.5411.
6 IHS Markit. 2017 Update The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2015 to 2030. 2017.
7 Finnane A, Dallest K, Janda M, Soyer HP. Teledermatology for the Diagnosis and Management of Skin Cancer: A Systematic Review . JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(3):319–327. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.4361.
8 Rajda J, Seraly MP, Fernandes J, Niejadlik K, Wei H, Fox K, Steinberg G, Paz HL. Impact of Direct to Consumer Store-and-Forward Teledermatology on Access to Care, Satisfaction, Utilization, and Costs in a Commercial Health Plan Population. Telemed J E Health. 2018 Feb;24(2):166-169. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2017.0078. Epub 2017 Jul 21. PubMed PMID: 28742431.