Dermatologic care is in high demand, and the demand is increasing every day. With the increased demand, supply has also increased over the years. In the US, AssociatedDerm.net estimated that the ratio is about 3.4 per 100,000 individuals which is short of the recommended ratio of 4 per 100,000 persons.
Therefore, the current ratio can’t adequately cater to society. An increase in the number of dermatologists will be significant in controlling and lowering skin diseases and the mortality rate of melanoma which are considered economic burdens.
The Current Distribution of Dermatologists
Currently, the demand is overwhelming the supply. The low number of dermatologists means that some areas are deprived of dermatologic services. The geographical variance in the country has left several areas underserved. These areas are forced to use non-physician clinicians to supplement the shortage of dermatologists.
A study was done to determine the geographical distribution of dermatologists and their physician assistants, the overall density of the dermatology provider, and how these factors affect access to dermatologic care. The study used membership and geographical data of practicing dermatologists and DPAs and compared them to the total population.
According to the study, the number of dermatologists numbered at 13,365 in 2016. The figure represented 10,845 dermatologists and 2,520 dermatologist physician assistants. When compared to the population, the figure yielded a 4.14 to 100,000 ratio. The 734 zip code locations that had more than one dermatology only had less than 3% of DPAs.
When only accounting for dermatologists, the sections with less than a 3 to 100,000 ratio decreased by 12.4% from 59.8%. Meanwhile, section codes containing more than 4 dermatologists per 100,000 increased to 40.2% from 27.7% when all the data were combined.
The results of the study showed that dermatologists and DPAs are not uniformly distributed in the United States. Major urban centers have more dermatologists, and DPAs tend to concentrate on low-population areas. The DPAs are extending care services to areas that lack or have few dermatologists.
Current Issues on Dermatology
Practicing dermatologists are currently unable to provide adequate dermatologic services to the high number of patients. The training positions in the dermatology residents have remained constant over the years. This means that the dermatologists who are in training will not be sufficient to meet future demand which is increasing every year.
An influx of DPAs is filling the gap left by the ununiformed geographical distribution of dermatologists in the US. The trend is bound to continue with the number of training programs for DPAs increasing. The slots are also many, and the training programs also take a short period.
The geographical distribution of dermatologists in the USA is uneven, thereby leaving many areas deprived of dermatologic services. DPAs are filling the gap, but it is not enough, and dermatologists are needed for critical cases. The country needs to develop initiatives that will attract dermatologists and DPAs to deprived regions. If the efforts work, the ununiformed distribution will be solved, and access to dermatological care will increase.