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J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2004 Mar;9(2):126-30.

Dermatologists and office-based care of dermatologic disease in the 21st century.

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Most professional care of skin diseases is provided in physicians' offices. In the past 25 y, medical practice has changed substantially. Since 1973, the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey has provided data about patients seen in physicians' offices. Using 1974, 1980, and 1989 data, we have previously analyzed these data as they pertain to skin diseases. To provide a more current assessment of dermatologists' practices and the care of skin diseases in office-based practice, we analyzed National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data for 1999 to 2000. We used statistical methods for survey data to estimate the number and characteristics of visits to dermatologists and others for skin diseases. We compared the characteristics of dermatologists' office-based practices with those of other physicians. In 1999 to 2000, there were approximately 35 million visits annually to office-based dermatologists, double the number for 1974. Eight diagnostic groups account for 65% of all visits to dermatologists. Acne is still the most frequent primary diagnosis at visits to dermatologists, but since 1974 the proportion of all visits that were for acne has decreased by half. Compared to other office-based physicians, dermatologists are significantly more likely to own their practices (OR, 2.78; 95% CI, 1.52-5.02) and much less likely to see capitated patients (OR, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.17-0.53). Over 26 y, utilization of dermatologists' services has grown in proportion to the increase in the number of office-based dermatologists. The organization of their practices has changed little. Dermatologists dominate the care of many of the same diagnoses as they did 20 y ago.

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