Tips for Choosing a Dermatologist
A Personal Decision
Almost anyone can benefit from seeing a dermatologist. A dermatologist can help teens and adults control acne, improve the appearance of their skin, and prevent skin cancer. Choosing a dermatologist is an important and personal decision, especially if you have a skin condition. How do you find the best dermatologist who is right for you? Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
Start with a referral list of dermatologists from your primary care doctor. Also ask family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. With a list of a few names, call each dermatologist’s office to see if he or she is accepting new patients. Ask the receptionist for a consult appointment to meet and interview the dermatologist.
Research the Dermatologist’s Credentials
Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are finding a dermatologist. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in dermatology. Also confirm that the dermatologist has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the dermatologist’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
Consider the Dermatologist’s Experience
Experience matters when you’re facing issues with the appearance or health of your skin, hair or nails. The more experience a dermatologist has with a condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Fellowship training in a subspecialty like skin cancer surgery or hair and nail disorders is extremely valuable. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the dermatologist has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
It’s important to feel comfortable with your dermatologist’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. When it comes to dermatology, your own gender is also an important consideration. Dermatologists are becoming more skilled in caring for women and men differently. Ask the dermatologist about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.
HOW TO SELECT A DERMATOLOGIST
Before making an appointment with a dermatologist, it is important to consider their level of training. Board-certified dermatologists have at least eight years of medical training, if not more. They have proven their expertise by passing difficult board exams and meeting other requirements.
Board-certified: It is important to check whether your dermatologist is board-certified. If they are, the initials FAAD will appear after their name. FAAD stands for “Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.” A dermatologist’s website is often a good place to check. It will either list FAAD after their name or discuss their board certification.
Insurance: If you are uncertain about insurance coverage, call your insurance provider. They are the best source for learning whether a dermatologist is in your network and if the visit is covered. They can also tell you whether treatment for a particular condition is covered. Note that strictly cosmetic procedures — such as treatment for wrinkles — usually are not covered.
Booking the appointment: As is true for many specialists, there can be a wait to see a dermatologist. To help you get timely care, dermatologists offer the follow tips.
Make your appointment early. The earlier you can book your appointment, the better. If you are scheduling a routine appointment, call several weeks or even months ahead of when you wish to be seen.
Explain your concerns. If you are worried about a particular condition or have pain, briefly explain this to the receptionist. For example, if you have a mole that is itching, bleeding, or changing (signs of possible skin cancer), be sure to mention that. Dermatologists will try to work in patients with urgent issues as soon as possible. You may be able to speak directly with the dermatologist or his or her nurse to explain your worries. Dermatologists work tirelessly to keep their patients healthy and happy. They will know whether your condition needs urgent care.
How to Choose a Dermatologist
There are two kinds of skin doctors: general and cosmetic, and choosing the right derm is crucial to addressing your concerns
Know the types. A general dermatologist will treat rashes, acne, and rosacea; they do skin exams to check for questionable moles; and they can help with issues such as thinning hair. They are a good starting place for anti-aging prescriptions such as Retin-A or hydroquinone for wrinkles and brown spots. Deeply etched wrinkles, scars, or persistent discoloration—anything that requires a peel, injection, or laser—are best treated by a cosmetic dermatologist.
Check their bios. Doctors usually have one on their practice’s website. Look for board certification from the American Academy of Dermatology—you don’t want to get Botox from someone certified as an OB-GYN. A website is also a good place to see whether the doctor’s focus is general or cosmetic and if she specializes further. Someone who names laser treatments, or Botox and fillers, will be more experienced than a doctor who insists she does them all equally well.
Go for a consult. Schedule your first appointment for a Monday or Tuesday. These are usually the busiest days. Take advantage of the full waiting room and ask your fellow patients about their experiences. It’s a good sign if you have to wait several weeks for a consultation; the doctor is in demand. Most doctors charge for a consultation, but often that fee is put toward the cost of a procedure.
Listen up. When you meet a cosmetic dermatologist for the first time, I think it’s best to give a vague sense of why you’re there and then let her talk. Mention that you’re bothered by the lines on your face or noticeable leg veins, but don’t go into all the remedies you’ve researched online. Listen to how she’d address those issues. Her opinion will give you a sense of her aesthetic philosophy, including how aggressive she is.
Signs of a Great Dermatologist
Whether you want to get rid of adult acne or you’re curious about the latest in anti-aging technology, choosing a dermatologist can sometimes be as daunting as the skin problems that plague you. Simplify the search by paying attention to these five guidelines when shopping around.
The best credentials. Report cards matter. Any doctor with a medical degree can start a dermatology practice, but certified physicians boast additional years of supervised study and have passed rigorous exams. Do a free online search to ensure that a prospective dermatologist is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, which is the gold standard for the industry, says Wendy Lewis, the author of America’s Cosmetic Doctors and a cosmetic surgery consultant. She warns, “Many doctors call themselves dermatologists but may be internists, general practitioners, or something else.”
Unrushed appointments. Exceptional dermatologists don’t look at the clock; they look at your chart and are completely focused on your personal story and your questions. “Your dermatologist should take the time to explain things, address your concerns, and explain treatment plans, as well as any tests you may have to undergo,”. If a dermatologist dismisses your thoughts, is difficult to follow up with, or rushes you through an appointment, it’s time to find someone who values you more as a patient.
No sales pitching. It’s a doctor’s office — not a home shopping television show. The dermatologist and the office staff should never aggressively push products, treatments, or other remedies that don’t specifically address your personal concerns. “If you feel that a dermatologist is selling you, he or she may be more interested in your money than in helping you,” says Dr. Bank.
A generous sampling policy. An office chock-full of mini tubes of various products shows that a dermatologist genuinely wants patients to find the best — and not just any — solution to a given skin problem, and that he or she is conscious of budgets and prescription copay amounts. “If your dermatologist wants you to try a product to make sure it’s right for you before you commit to buying a prescription, it’s a great sign,” says Bank. And don’t be shy; speak up and ask if samples are available, as doctors often have to trash loads of expired samples.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DERMATOLOGIST
Dermatologists diagnose and treat more than 3,000 different diseases and conditions related to the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes (the lining inside the eyelids, nose, and mouth). A dermatologist is specially qualified to treat a variety of conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, rosacea, skin cancer, wrinkles, age spots, and hair loss. People of all ages, from newborns to those over 100 years of age, can often benefit from regularly seeing a skilled dermatologist.
Choose a dermatologist that is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology. While technically any doctor with a medical degree can start a skin care practice
CONSIDER THE NEED FOR SPECIALIZATION
Some board certified dermatologists complete additional education and training in order to specialize in areas like Mohs surgery, dermatopathology, or pediatric dermatology. Such additional fellowship training can be extremely valuable when it comes to properly treating certain conditions. Patients who know they need a specific procedure should concentrate their search on dermatologists with additional fellowship training. Ask any candidate about their history performing the procedure including complications.
All patients deserve a dermatologist that they feel comfortable with. This means finding a dermatologist with a communication style and personality that works with yours. When reading reviews or soliciting referrals form friends ask if visits feel rushed. A good dermatologist will take the time to fully address your concerns and explain all the treatment options.
AFTER HOURS CARE
It’s important for patients to always be able to reach out to their dermatologist after office hours, during evening and on weekends. Many dermatologists will offer on-call or answering services to handle any emergencies like allergic reactions. You should never feel left in the dark on the weekend or after hours on weekdays.