Dermatology in primary care: Prevalence and patient disposition.

Research paper by B A BA Lowell, C W CW Froelich, D G DG Federman, R S RS Kirsner

Indexed on: 21 Jul '01Published on: 21 Jul '01Published in: Journal of The American Academy of Dermatology


Cutaneous disease is commonly encountered in primary care. The frequency of patients presenting to primary care physicians with skin disease and their eventual disposition is not well studied.The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of patients seen with skin disease in a primary care setting and the likelihood of their referral to a dermatologist. The impact the primary care provider had on the quality of skin care was also examined.A retrospective chart review was performed of patients seen during a 2-year period at a general medicine clinic within the University of Miami and upon referral to a University of Miami dermatology office. Data were obtained on the prevalence of skin disease, dispositions of referral, diagnoses made, and procedures performed.During a 2-year period, 36.5% of patients who presented to their primary care physician had at least one skin problem. Of 208 patients with skin disease, in 58.7% (122/208) it was their chief complaint. A wide range of diagnoses were made by the primary care physician, with a limited number of diagnostic procedures performed. Of the 37.5% of patients referred to a dermatologist, 68% were referred on initial evaluation. Diagnoses made by the primary care physician were concordant with that made by the dermatologists 57% of the time.Patients frequently see their primary care physician for skin disease. A large percentage are referred to dermatologists, often for a biopsy of a suspect lesion, to confirm a suspected diagnosis, or to establish a diagnosis of lesions of unknown origin.