Many of us have seen a dermatologist for various reasons, whether it was acne, psoriasis, eczema, warts or a mole check. A dermatology appointment can be a very satisfying experience and help you tackle multiple problems. There are several tips that I, as a dermatologist, would like to share with you so that you can optimize your visit.
I have treated thousands of patients and seen the spectrum of outcomes. Here are some pointers to help you have the most positive patient experience:
Research the dermatologist before making an appointment. This can be online research or based on other people’s experiences. Make sure that the physician is a board-certified dermatologist. Believe it or not, there are some who practice dermatology without actually being a dermatologist; therefore, it is important to check on this fact. There are also nurse practitioners and physician assistants who practice dermatology, but they should do so under the supervision of the dermatologist. Read online reviews or ask others about the provider’s bedside manner and their communication skills.
Ask for forms to fill out beforehand. Some offices provide forms online, so you can complete them before your visit and be ready to go as soon as you check in. Remember, the medical assistant or nurse cannot call you back to an exam room before all necessary paperwork is completed.
Have your I.D. and insurance card ready. Many doctor’s offices will not see you if you don’t have these; this is because they need to verify your identity and require the correct information to bill your insurance provider.
Give the doctor the information he/she needs. This includes a list of medications you are taking, and especially, any medications you have been treated with (or have self-treated) for the skin problem. You would be surprised at the number of people who tell me that they use “the cream in the blue tube or the red tube or the yellow and white tube.” Your dermatologist does not have super powers and many medications have similar packaging; so, describing the tube is typically pointless. You should also know your medical and family histories or have the info written down for the doctor to review.
Know what you want to achieve. Write a small list (not a “book”) of the things you want to discuss with the dermatologist, so that you don’t forget to ask about the specific issues you want addressed. You don’t want to miss anything, but on the other hand, time is limited – so, make sure that you prioritize your list, starting with the most important.
Ask pertinent questions. Make sure you understand what your diagnosis is, what tests are needed and exactly what medications are being prescribed. You can always ask for the information to be printed for you, so that you don’t have to rely on your memory. When you finish the visit, you should know what your diagnosis is (or could potentially be), what the treatment plan is, and when you will follow-up with the doctor.
Schedule a follow-up appointment. Before you leave the office, make sure to get an appointment card. This way, you know how to contact the office and when you will be returning. An appointment with a dermatologist can be difficult to get, so make sure that yours is set before you leave.
Pick up your medications and use them. You would be surprised at how many people do not follow instructions. Your dermatologist can prescribe the best medications, but if you don’t use them, then they won’t work. If you are given gentle skin care instructions, then make sure to follow them. You and your dermatologist are a team – you need to work together to achieve a positive outcome.
Have reasonable expectations. Acne, psoriasis, eczema and other skin problems do not appear overnight and will not likely disappear overnight. It will take time, multiple visits, and potentially multiple trials of medications to help your condition. Also, many dermatology conditions can be controlled, but not actually cured. This means that as long as you are using your medications, the condition will improve – but if you stop, then it may relapse.
I hope you have a great visit with your dermatologist! These tips can help you have a positive experience and start your journey to healthy skin.