Preserving Patient Access to Dermatology

The wait time for new patients to get a dermatology appointment is at its highest levels since Merritt Hawkins first began tracking this metric. According to that organization’s 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times, 32 days is the average wait time for a routine skin exam in major metropolitan areas and 35 days in mid-sized markets. There is no recent data on wait times in rural areas. However, anecdotally, the wait times there can be a year or more due to the limited number of available dermatologists.

The reason behind this wait time increase is two-fold.

Source: Merritt Hawkins 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times

Cost Reduction Efforts

Health insurance companies are limiting patient access by narrowing their provider networks and categorizing their in-network physicians into tiers. These cost-saving tactics drive more patients to a smaller number of providers. As this trend continues, wait times to get an appointment will increase further.  Patients will be forced to choose between paying higher out-of-pocket costs or waiting long periods of time for basic dermatological care.

Independent dermatology practices are at a greater risk of being shut out of provider networks. Practices that are affiliated with a larger, quality-driven organization have more leverage when negotiating with payors, both to stay in-network and for better reimbursement rates. This benefits both the patients and the practices.

Recruitment Challenges

Demand for dermatology services is outstripping supply in many regions. Recruiting new providers – especially in smaller markets – is a challenge. What’s more, many new medical school graduates are being recruited by large hospital systems that can offer higher salaries and better benefits.

The shortage of dermatologists who want to join small practices exacerbates the wait time issue. For example, the wait time to get an appointment at one rural North Carolina-based practice was sometimes more than a year. The practice owners’ ongoing efforts to recruit additional dermatologists were unsuccessful. However, after affiliating with QualDerm, two additional dermatologists were recruited, one of whom was also a Mohs surgeon. That practices’ appointment wait time has been significantly reduced. Their patients also now have convenient access to advanced skin cancer care from physicians who were trained at some of the nation’s top dermatology programs. QualDerm’s wider recruitment network helps match affiliated practices with high-caliber physicians who are focused on providing quality care.

Learn more about how affiliating with QualDerm can help you protect your patients’ access to quality dermatological care.

Contact us to find out more about partnership opportunities or to discuss selling your practice.