Derm access and impact of skin disease focus of Congressional briefing

Earlier this month, approximately 40 Congressional staff and representatives from specialty medical societies along with two members of Congress attended the Academy’s briefing in Washington, D.C. on the economic impact of skin disease and how the specialty is working to improve access issues. Academy President Henry Lim, MD, and Karen Edison, MD, chair of the AAD Specialty Positioning Work Group, presented findings from the Academy’s Burden of Skin Disease report, a research study that examines the impact of skin disease in the United States, and the new SkinSerious campaign, an effort to raise awareness about the breadth of skin diseases that affect patients, improve access to dermatologic care, and highlight the role dermatologists play in team-based care.

M2M: What was the focus of your presentation to legislators in Washington, DC in April?

Karen_Edison_2017.jpegDr. Edison: Dr. Henry Lim, chair of the Burden of Skin Disease Work Group, and I were invited to do a Hill briefing. The purpose was two-fold: to describe the key findings of the Burden of Skin Disease report, and to introduce the Academy’s new Skin Serious specialty positioning campaign.

In his presentation, Dr. Lim discussed the seriousness and economic impact of skin disease, highlighting some statistics from the Burden of Skin Disease report, including that in 2013:

  • $75 billion was spent on skin disease.
  • One in four Americans reported receiving treatment for at least one skin disease.
  • Nearly 50% of Americans over age 65 had skin disease.

SkinSerious features patient stories that raise awareness about the critical role dermatologists play in an era of team-based health care.

I presented on the Academy’s SkinSerious campaign, which is our effort to describe the breadth and seriousness of the skin diseases that we treat, the many ways we collaborate with non-dermatology physician colleagues in the care of patients with skin disease, and how we are working to increase access to our expertise. In the Burden of Skin Disease report, we found that two-thirds of patients with skin disease were not cared for by dermatologists because dermatologists are in short supply. We would have to double the number of dermatologists to treat all of the patients with skin disease.

We also know that up to one-third of our non-dermatology physician colleagues report having trouble accessing dermatology expertise for their patients.

At the Hill briefing, I described what our specialty is doing to improve access to dermatologic care. This includes:

  • Working with our primary-care colleagues on scheduling solutions to allow us to see their patients on a more timely basis;
  • Using teledermatology to care for the underserved in both rural and urban settings; and
  • Finding innovative ways to collaborate with primary care providers such as a program we are using in Missouri called the Dermatology ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Program. In this program, we train primary care providers in rural and otherwise underserved areas to take care of basic dermatology skin diseases.

I discussed the diseases our patients have and how they impact their lives. Also how we collaborate with other physicians and other healthcare providers, and how we are working on innovative ideas to provide access to our expertise.

M2M: How was your message received by legislators?

Dr. Edison: We presented to a room filled with Hill staffers and health advocates, as well as two members of Congress. They were attentive and interested. They had many questions at the end of the presentation. My favorite question came from a key staffer of one of the House leaders. He asked, “What can we do for you?”

M2M: How did you answer that question?

Dr. Edison: We said they could help on making sure we don’t roll back the tanning bed tax. I talked about help we need in lowering the cost of prescription drugs. I described how many of our dermatology medications have increased in priced dramatically in recent years and that it’s more and more difficult to care for dermatology patients given the cost of medications. Many of our patients can’t begin to afford the medicines available.

M2M: What’s next for the SkinSerious campaign?

Dr. Edison: I hope everyone will visit the Academy’s SkinSerious website and read the patient stories included on the site. At the bottom of the web page, you can submit stories about your patients with serious skin disease and/or how you’ve collaborated with other physicians in the care of skin disease patients. And we also need stories that illustrate what our members are doing to improve access to dermatology.