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Why is it So Hard to Get an Appointment with Most Dermatologists?

August 25, 2020

Dermatology is the field of medicine that focuses on treating the skin, hair, and nails. A board-certified dermatologist will have had over 12 years of education and training, so they can identify and treat thousands of conditions. Aside from treating medical conditions for people of all ages, dermatologists can also conduct cosmetic procedures so their patients can look and feel great. 

So why is it hard to get a dermatology appointment? There are several reasons, actually.

One major reason is that there simply aren’t enough dermatologists available. A cap on medical residency training, an increase in demand for new treatments, and awareness of skin diseases also cause a shortage in available dermatologists. This is true in New York and throughout the United States.

Why Getting a Dermatologist Appointment is Difficult 

If you have ever tried to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, you may have experienced being on a wait-list for more than a week. Recent studies show that for every 100,000 people, there are only 3.3 dermatologists available to treat them.

Effective new treatments and a growing awareness of skin problems contribute to patients looking for dermatologists. However, there is a yearly cap for dermatologist residency training – which means there is a limited number of dermatologists in this medical specialty. These factors contribute to why it’s so difficult to see a dermatologist. 

There are three main reasons why there is such a large demand for dermatology services, but not enough dermatologists to address this need. 

New treatments are available. 

Dermatologists have seen an increasing demand for both medical and cosmetic procedures. Diseases like psoriasis and eczema now have more effective treatments, while cosmetic treatments such as Botox and fillers remain popular.

Patients are more aware of skin conditions. 

Aside from consulting about problems that naturally occur, patients are more informed about skin diseases and skin cancers. This leads to more and more people trying to visit dermatology clinics to get their skin condition checked. While it’s great when people are proactive about their health, the number of appointments being booked is causing longer wait times. 

Patients also have access to more information about other skin problems through the internet, which may have negative effects. As they continue to read about their symptoms and possible underlying illnesses, patients become distressed about their suspected medical conditions. 

For example, patients tend to find “skin cancer” when looking up “moles,” since the growth of strange moles may indicate the presence of skin cancer. Although this form of skin cancer is relatively rare, the worry alone drives patients to book appointments with their dermatologists. 

There are a limited number of slots for dermatologist training. 

After medical school, students are matched to resident training programs so they can begin pursuing graduate medical education training. This is one of the final stages in the process of becoming a practicing doctor. 

However, there is a cap on the number of new doctors allowed to train in residency programs. Although there are more students and schools available, there is no corresponding increase in the number of training slots. 

Despite growth in the overall population and in the field of dermatology, only a few hundred dermatologists are trained each year, on average, over the past 30 years. Not only does this cause a shortage of doctors in the country, but it also causes burnout in dermatology practices. According to a 2018 report, 32% of dermatologists say they are burned-out — implying physicians in the field are overworked. 

Another problem is that since there are fewer dermatologists graduating every year, these health care providers are more in demand. They can choose where they want to establish their dermatology practices, and most tend to choose larger cities. This leaves suburbs and rural areas underserved, creating longer wait times at the nearest clinics. 

While this dermatologist shortage is an obstacle to proper healthcare, there is still hope. In some areas, there is a large population of dermatologists available so it’s easier to find other practitioners with more reasonable wait times. However, if you’re in an area where this isn’t an option, you can consider virtual dermatology appointments instead.

Tips On How to Book a Dermatologist Appointment

Despite the long wait times, it’s important to have your skin checked regularly by a dermatologist. The skin is your body’s first line of defense, which is why you should try to schedule trips to your dermatologist even if your condition doesn’t seem like a major concern. Here are some tips to reduce the wait times before seeing a dermatologist: 

  • If you don’t have a dermatologist, ask any doctor or primary care provider for a referral. You can also check with friends and family to see if they can recommend a dermatologist to you. Be sure to ask how long the average wait time is, and if they can get you an earlier appointment. 
  • Ask your dermatologist’s receptionist if you can be put on a waiting list. If they don’t have a waiting list, let them know you will call every day to see if there is a cancellation. If you live close to the dermatologist’s clinic or if you have a flexible schedule, let the staff know – this will make them more likely to call you than someone else because of your flexibility. You can also leave your contact number and email address, so they can get back to you quickly. 
  • Be kind to the medical assistants and receptionists, especially if you’re going to be a repeat patient at a specific practice. Learning everyone’s names and treating them respectfully will go a long way.  

Virtual Dermatology: An Alternative to In-Person Appointments

If you are unable to schedule an in-person visit with a dermatologist, consider trying virtual dermatology, also known as telemedicine, which is the delivery of healthcare services through electronic communications.

With telemedicine, you can have a video call with a dermatologist from wherever you are located. Your doctor will be able to assess if you have a pressing skin condition through the video, or you can send a photo of the problem area. Telemedicine also allows for document-sharing, so you can send the results of any laboratory exams directly to your dermatologist. They can also prescribe treatments for you through the telemedicine visit, or send you a copy of the prescription to your email address. 

Benefits of Virtual Appointments 

Telemedicine is expected to become the “next big thing” in healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual check-ups reduce the risk of getting infected with the virus from visiting healthcare facilities. Virtual appointments can also help you address your medical concerns, even if you are in quarantined areas. You also save time.

For dermatology appointments, conducting a visit online is convenient because you likely won’t need to wait too long for an appointment. You also won’t waste as much time if you only need a follow-up, or if your concern isn’t very serious. Here are three more reasons why you should consider virtual dermatology: 

It’s an affordable option. 

On average, teledermatology costs around $40 – $99 for a session. If you are travelling regularly to consult with your dermatologist, telemedicine can provide significant savings from the travel expenses that can add up over time.

There is a quick turnaround time. 

Getting a teledermatology appointment generally won’t take as much time as waiting for an in-person appointment. Your urgent concerns and questions can be addressed, which is especially convenient for follow-up consultations. For some healthcare providers, they will request images of your skin, as well as a written description of your condition through an online form. After submitting these documents, you can expect to receive an answer within 24 hours. 

You have access to more doctors. 

Patients in underserved communities or rural areas have remote access to dermatologists and other specialists through telemedicine. Instead of travelling a long distance to visit a clinic or struggling to find a dermatologist who fits into your schedule, telemedicine allows you to reach more doctors who can provide excellent patient care through a video call. 

Same-Day Scheduling at Walk-in Dermatology 

No one should have to wait weeks for a dermatology appointment. At Walk-in Dermatology, we guarantee a short wait time through our same-day scheduling. Our board-certified dermatologists practice “convenient care” in our full-service facility, so you are ensured fast and effective treatment with every visit. We also conduct remote healthcare services through our Video Visit service, so we can meet our patients’ needs in whatever manner is most convenient for them. Sign up for an appointment today