A strong doctor-patient relationship can make all the difference when skin-related issues arise. If you’re comfortable with your dermatologist, you’re more likely to be honest with him or her about your concerns, which can help provide you with better care. This kind of confidence can be especially helpful when dealing with chronic conditions that can also affect your mental health, such as eczema or acne.
“You’re going to see your dermatologist a lot when you’re dealing with these types of ongoing issues, which tend to require a certain level of maintenance and regular appointments,” Corey Hartman, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology. at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, he tells himself. With all that face-to-face time, it’s important that he feel comfortable with his doctor.
“We know that conditions like psoriasis and eczema can be correlated with increased anxiety and depression, so it’s more important than ever to have a relationship with your dermatologist,” Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. Medicine, he tells himself. 1,2 “You [should] feel that you are not only receiving a medical solution, but also some kind of emotional comfort.”
All of that said, finding a dermatologist you click with who can also give you the empathetic treatment you deserve can be easier said than done. For starters, there really isn’t that many skin doctors out there. Dermatologists make up only about 1% of physicians in the US; it’s an extremely competitive field because the number of residency slots is limited to only about 500 per year, Tiffany J. Libby, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University, tells SELF.
Dermatologists also tend to be concentrated in larger metropolitan areas, making the options even more scarce for people who live in smaller cities or rural towns, says Dr. Hartman. Still, no matter where you are or what kind of access to healthcare you have, you have options. Here are some of the most important things to consider when beginning your search for a dermatologist you love.
1. Start with word of mouth recommendations.
According to Dr. Libby, getting a referral from a friend, family member, or even your primary care doctor is the best place to start your search for the right dermatologist. “She’ll know you can trust her opinion, as opposed to just reading reviews online, which aren’t always entirely transparent,” she says. Googling can give you basic information about a doctor, but going to her PCP or others she trusts first is almost like using a matchmaker; they’ll have a better understanding of what you’re looking for and can provide more nuanced recommendations, says Dr. Gohara.
2. Take advantage of large organizations.
If you don’t have a PCP, another doctor, or anyone else you can ask for a referral, go online, but be strategic. Major dermatology societies, such as the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgeons, often offer directories of their members, with filters that let you search based on geographic location or specialty, says Dr. Hartman. (That’s an especially handy feature if you want someone with expertise in your particular skin condition. Not to mention, these directories are a foolproof way to make sure any derm you find is credible and board-certified.)
You can also look up societies associated with certain skin conditions, suggests Dr. Gohara. There’s one for just about every major: the National Eczema Association, the National Psoriasis Foundation, the American Acne & Rosacea Society, and the list goes on. Many of these organizations have online directories, and you can also call or email them through their posted contact information for a list of dermatologists who specialize in the particular problem you’re treating, he notes.
Once you have the names of the dermatologists you’re considering, simply checking their bios online can tell you a lot about them, says Dr. Gohara. This includes their education and training, the areas they specialize in, the societies they are a part of, as well as any other interests they may have, Dr. Gohara adds. A bio also often has a photo, which can sometimes come in handy for this next tip…
3. Consider cultural competency.
“We know that racially concordant visits, where the patient works with a doctor who shares their racial identity, results in better health outcomes across the board, and that may be especially true in dermatology,” says Dr. Gohara.3 “Racial matching helps you relate to more than just what’s going on in the exam room because you can literally see yourself in that person.” Patients often feel more heard and better cared for when they can connect with their doctor in this way, says Dr. Libby, adding that many of her AAPI patients have told her they chose her because they felt it would be better for her to know how to take care of her skin since she is asian american.
Cultural competence is also incredibly important, because you want a dermatologist who understands how certain cultural practices can affect treatments and protocols, says Dr. Libby. She cites hair loss in black women as a common situation where this arises. “If the dermatologist is torn between prescribing a topical cream or an ointment, they have to understand the type of hair the patient has, how often they wash it, and if they wear a wig, for example,” she explains. A doctor’s conscience Discussing these kinds of factors can not only influence whether or not someone sticks to a treatment plan, but can also create a more supportive environment—people may feel more comfortable opening up to a dermatologist who better understands who they are.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to culturally competent care? Diversity among dermatologists is lacking, dramatically. “Only about 3% of dermatologists are African American, compared to more than 13% of the general population, and only about 4% are Hispanic, compared to more than 18% of the population,” says Dr. Libby. .
There is also a diversity deficit when it comes to the training that dermatologists receive, although Dr. Hartman notes that there is a promising movement to correct this problem, for example by making educational text and images more inclusive and representative. . This is really important because it’s not so much that skin conditions are inherently different in people of different races, but that they may not manifest in the same way. “With diseases like psoriasis and eczema, the presentation is different. They don’t look the same on someone with darker skin than they do on people with lighter skin,” he says. “If the dermatologist isn’t attuned to that, he can easily miss a diagnosis or misdiagnose something.”
The hopeful news: Although it may take a little more legwork, there are resources to help you find a doctor who shares your racial identity and/or understands your cultural practices. Dr. Hartman recommends the Black Derm Directory and Skin of Color Society, both of which offer a national database of dermatologists that he can search by both geographic area and specialty. Once he zeroes in on a particular doctor or practice, he can always call to ask more about their cultural competency or how well versed they are in skin of color.
If you can’t find a doctor you can relate to, which can be tricky if you live in a place where there aren’t many dermatologists to begin with, you might want to consider finding someone who shares your gender identity, Dr. Gohara says. (Research suggests that women, in particular, tend to be more satisfied with their care if their doctor is also a woman.) 4
4. Study teledermatology.
It’s certainly not a silver bullet for all scenarios, but teledermatology has increased accessibility to dermatologists for many people. “There are many cases in which a teledermatology consultation will be useful. For example, if you’ve already been diagnosed with acne and it’s getting worse, a virtual visit can be a good way to explore alternative treatment options,” says Dr. Libby. “And they’re also good at assessing problems that come up out of the blue.” (Think: She woke up with eczema on her eyelids or some other unexplained rash.)
But there are also many limitations; Although dermatology is a visual field, a photo or video is often not enough to diagnose certain conditions, since doctors want to be able to feel the skin, Dr. Libby cautions. (To her information, teledermatology definitely cannot be used to diagnose skin cancer.) The cost per visit will also vary, as some teledermatology providers offer memberships (where you pay a fixed monthly or yearly fee), others accept insurance, etc. Related news…
5. Think outside the box if you don’t have insurance.
You can always ask your dermatologist’s office if they accept self-pay patients. “Many dermatologists will be willing to accommodate your financial situation if you don’t have insurance,” says Dr. Gohara. “They may even lower the cost of services or offer some type of payment plan.” He can also search for free health clinics or popups. These can be community-based, and many universities offer them as well and set up satellite offices once or twice a month, says Dr. Hartman. (To find one, start by calling any college or university in your area, ask your PCP or other doctor, or even contact a local urgent care center.) Just keep in mind that these types of clinics are usually in high demand and difficult. going in, it’s not an ideal situation if you’re going to need ongoing follow-ups, says Dr. Libby.
6. Make the most of any date.
Regardless of the route you take to find your dream dermatologist, you’ll want to make the most of your time with them to get a feel for their personality and treatment style. “The overall ‘vibe’ you get and whether you like them is important, but you also want to make sure everything is explained to you in detail,” says Dr. Gohara. “At the end of the visit, they should ask you if all your questions have been answered and if you have any more. The goal is for you to leave not only feeling like you’ve been heard, but also with a good understanding of what happened during the appointment and what’s next.”
At the end of the day, there should be some leeway between simply liking your doctor as a person and knowing that they are going to properly address your concerns. “It’s great if your personalities completely match and it’s someone you feel you could hang out with, but you also want to make sure they’re the best person to treat your skin issues,” says Dr. Gohara. “I like” someone can mean you think they’re a great human being, or it can mean you “like” them because they’re great for lightening your skin, he adds. In the ideal scenario, you’ll find the right balance where you get the best of both worlds: a dermatologist you personally click with. and whose professional experience can help solve your skin problems.
- Frontiers in MedicineAssociation of psoriasis with anxiety and depression: a case-control study in Chinese patients.
- plus oneEczema is a shared risk factor for anxiety and depression: a meta-analysis and systematic review.
- Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health DisparitiesPatient-physician racial match associated with better health care use and lower health care expenditures in minority populations
- Journal of Primary Care and Community Healthobjective data reveals gender preferences for patients’ primary care physician