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Should Our Healthcare System Change the Way We Approach Atopic Dermatitis?

More patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) are seeking help from primary care physicians rather than dermatologists, a trend that only highlights the need to expand dermatology services for AD sufferers.

AD is very common among patients in the United States, reportedly affecting 13 percent of children and 7 percent of adults. According to the study authors, these high prevalence rates makes it hard for all AD patients to be seen by dermatologists.

In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the group of researchers from the Department of Dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University determined that both children and adults with AD were increasingly visiting outpatient health clinics. They found that primary care visits for the condition increased from 339,889 to 1,025,739 between 1999 to 2012-2015, an increase of around 200 percent. Whereas, AD visits to the dermatologist decreased annually from 446,669, to 371,003. Patients who went to their primary care doctor were typically seeking help for acute cases and those who visited their dermatologist were most likely chronic sufferers and referrals.

The researchers also examined data from the Centers for Disease Control on 128,300 pediatric and 623,935 adults visits and found that overall visits increased for the two groups, from 867,649 annually in 1996-1999 to 1,950,546 annually in 2012-2015. They found that children frequently preferred to go to their pediatrician and adults typically opted for their dermatologist.

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