Acne is a common reason for referral to dermatologists from primary care clinicians. We previously modeled the impact of algorithm-based acne care in reducing dermatology referrals, missed appointments, and treatment delays.
To prospectively evaluate the downstream outcomes following a real-time, algorithm-based electronic decision-support tool on the treatment of patients referred for acne.
This prospective cohort study included 260 treatment-naive patients referred to a dermatologist for the chief concern of acne, as well as the referring primary care clinicians, at 33 primary care sites affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital from March 2017 to March 2018.
We developed and implemented a decision-support tool into the electronic medical record system at an academic medical center. The algorithm identified patients referred to a dermatologist who had not previously been treated for acne and offered guideline-based recommendations for treatment via a real-time notification.
Treatment modification by referring clinicians.
Of 260 patients referred for acne, 209 (80.4%) were women, 146 (56.1%) were non-Hispanic white, and 236 (90.8%) listed English as the preferred language. Patients had a median (quartile 1-quartile 3) age of 28.8 years (24.4-35.1 years) and 185 of 260 had private insurance (71.1%). In total, the algorithm was associated with cancellation of the initial referral in 35 of 260 (13.5%) instances and treatment initiation by the referring clinician in 51 of 260 (19.6%) instances.
This decision-support algorithm was associated with a modest reduction in rates of acne-related referrals to dermatologists, and an increased likelihood of treatment initiation by the referring clinician.