SkinSerious aims to improve perception of specialty and raise awareness of impact of skin disease

At this month’s Academy Annual Meeting, the AAD launched SkinSerious, 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. Karen Edison, MD, FAAD, chair of the AAD Specialty Positioning Work Group discusses how SkinSerious is designed to raise awareness of the critical role dermatologists play in an era of team-based health care.

MTM: Why did the Academy decide to launch a specialty positioning campaign?

Karen_edison.jpgDr. Edison: The Academy has initiated a campaign to educate other physicians and policy makers about the importance of dermatology as a specialty and the seriousness and breadth of the diseases we treat. In the House of Medicine, many of our physician colleagues know that we are experts on the prevention, detection, and treatment of skin cancer. But research by the Academy on perceptions about our specialty showed that physicians in other specialties don’t understand the broader scope of skin diseases dermatologists treat on a daily basis.

Last year, the Specialty Positioning Work Group reviewed previous research on perceptions of dermatology. To capture more recent perceptions, research was conducted using six focus groups comprised of both dermatologists and non-dermatologists.

The Academy has launched the SkinSerious website, which is the cornerstone of our specialty positioning efforts.

The dermatologists in the focus groups predicted that other specialties view us as being “overpaid,” “lazy,” and as having a “good lifestyle.” This is in sharp contrast to how focus groups of non-dermatologist physicians actually viewed our specialty. Instead, we heard descriptions such as “smart,” “thorough,” and “patient-friendly.”

When asked if it was important to have a dermatologist available for the care of their patients, the majority of our physician peers (84%) responded “yes”. Again, there is high regard for the field based on this study. However, when those same peers were asked if they have trouble referring patients to a dermatologist, nearly one-third, (32%) said it was difficult to get their patients in for an appointment or to be seen by a dermatologist in a timely manner.

In the process of pulling all of this data and information together, it became evidently clear that a Specialty Positioning Campaign was needed to deliver a strong, ubiquitous messaging platform—with core messages that dermatology treats serious skin disease, that dermatologists are an integral part of patient-centered health care teams, and as a specialty we are working to create greater access to dermatologic care.

The August 2016 issue of Dermatology World featured an inforgraphic that shows a breakdown of how other physicians rank the importance of dermatologic care for their patients, and how available they feel that care is. 

MTM: Why is the campaign targeting non-dermatologists and policymakers?

Dr. Edison: As we move toward high value healthcare, it will be more important than ever to ensure that our physician colleagues understand the breadth and seriousness of what we do. Also, that they appreciate the value of our expertise and understand that we are vital members of care teams.

For our specialty to thrive in the future we need to educate our colleagues and policy makers about our value and we need to improve access to our expertise. In addition, we need to be and show that we are responsive to requests for acute dermatologic consultations from other clinicians.

The SkinSerious campaign is supported by data from the “Burden of Skin Disease in the United States” report. This report quantifies the economic burden of 24 skin disease categories on patients and the health care system in the U.S. based on an analysis of medical claims.

The SkinSerious website features patients telling stories of how their lives have been helped by dermatologic care. 

MTM: How are we promoting this campaign?

Dr. Edison: In February, the Academy launched the SkinSerious website, which is the cornerstone of our specialty positioning efforts. The website features patients who tell their stories of how their lives have been changed by good dermatologic care. There are also stories of patients who have been helped by collaborative care between dermatologists and their colleagues in the House of Medicine. The site also features stories on how we are working to improve access to our care.

Can members still submit stories for the campaign?

Dr. Edison: Absolutely! The website includes a form at the bottom of the webpage where members can submit their stories. And we need more stories! We need good stories related to improving access and collaborating with other physicians and the healthcare team. We are also interested in more stories that reflect the serious nature of the skin diseases that we treat.

Stories from dermatologists and their patients are the foundation of the SkinSerious campaign. We are seeking stories from members about:

  • A patient who benefited from the care they provided for a severe or life-changing medical dermatologic condition;
  • A non-dermatologist physician whose consultation with them led to the right diagnosis and/or treatment; or
  • A story about innovative ways they are working to improve access to our expertise.

To make our stories more impactful and reach our key audiences, it’s important that our efforts show the perspectives of patients who have benefited from the care of dermatologists and non-dermatologist physicians or other providers who have worked collaboratively with them, as well as how you are working to improve access to dermatologic care. Your stories are greatly appreciated to support this important campaign!