There is a high demand for managing skin disease, and dermatologists are in short supply.
To better understand how rashes and other specific skin conditions are co-managed by primary care providers (PCPs) and dermatologists, we estimated the frequency with which PCPs sought consultation with or referral to dermatology and the proportion of patients who had a follow-up dermatology office visit in the following 90 days.
The retrospective longitudinal study included 106,459 patients with a skin condition diagnosed by 3,830 PCPs, from January 2017 to March 2017.
Comprehensive electronic medical record data with generalized linear mixed modeling accounted for patient factors including diagnosis and clustering by medical center and PCP.
PCPs escalated 9% of patients to dermatology through consultation or referral, while 5% required a follow-up dermatology office visit within 90 days. Patients with bullous, hair, or pigment conditions or psoriasis were most likely to be escalated. Clustering of escalation and follow-up visits was minimal in relation to medical center (intraclass correlation, 0.04 for both outcomes) or PCP (escalation, intraclass correlation, 0.16; follow-up visits, 0.09).
Improving primary care education in skin disease and, for certain skin conditions, standardizing approaches to workup, treatment, and escalation may further streamline care and reduce pressure on the dermatologist workforce.
PCPs managed 91% of rashes without consultation or referral to dermatology, and the frequency of patients scheduled for dermatology office visits after primary care was similar from one PCP to another.