We All Need Some Work Sometime

How pictures can make a difference in patient education and add some gloss to your pearls.

By Sandra Marchese Johnson, MD
 

Dermatologists spend a good part of each day educating patients about important topics like sun safety, the need for skin checks, and the importance of basic skincare. We often have tips we’ve picked up over the years—sometimes from patients.

While verbal recommendations and printed handouts are useful, sometime a picture goes a long way to conveying a message or making a more lasting impression. In light of this, I developed a slide deck of pearls that I like to share with patients during open houses, invited lectures, etc. Ahead are a few of my favorites, along with some explanation. I’ve also included some of the before and after images I think are most impactful among my patients.

Cosmetic Dermatology is for Anybody

Lest patients assume that cosmetic surgery isn’t right for them, I like to highlight the fact that everyone needs freshening up from time to time. Seeing the iconic Capitol Dome under scaffolding is a practical reminder of this reality.

Invest in a Good Bikini

A “bikini” offers virtually no sun protection, so when I call my sun protective beachwear a “bikini” patients are struck by the discordance, and that makes an impression. Showing patients that I am able to wear functional, comfortable, UV-protective clothing while having an enjoyable family vacation helps patients realize they can be sun-safe, too.

Brush Daily

I didn’t originate the advice to keep a bottle of sunscreen alongside your toothbrush as a reminder to apply SPF each morning—just like you brush your teeth daily. However, I have internalized the advice and I share it with my patients. When they see the proof that I follow my own advice, it encourages them to do the same.

Go Greasy on Yourself

So many patients complain of dry skin—and not just during the drier winter months. Evidence has shown that applying moisturizer immediately after bathing helps retain moisture (the “Soak and Seal” regimen is recommended for eczema patients). Just as with daily sunscreen use, showing patients that I keep moisturizer in the shower for daily application encourages them to do the same.

A Matter of Trust

We all face competition from non-dermatologists and in some cases, non-physicians. We also all hang our diplomas on the wall to showcase our education and training, but sometimes that’s not enough. I let patients see the library in our office piled with dermatology texts, and when I’m presenting, I show this picture. It reiterates the fact that I have studied the skin, I know how to care for it, and if and when I’m stumped, I have resources to find solutions.

Science Makes Cents

There are a lot of “home remedies” recommended to patients. Some of them actually work. I like to share inexpensive skincare tips with patients so they are using scientifically backed interventions. For example, petrolatum is great for moisturizing the skin and improving irritated skin as well as many other conditions. Vaporizing rub is great for toenails and softening thick skin and many other conditions.

Before and Afters Make a Difference

Another way to establish your expertise and maintain patient trust, is to let them see the kind of care you provide. When sharing before and after images, be sure to share some “run of the mill” cases, that the majority of patients will present with, but don’t neglect to showcase your skill at handling more severe presentations.

 

Contact Info

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About Practical Dermatology

Practical Dermatology is the monthly publication that provides coverage of medical care, cosmetic advancements, and practice management for clinicians in the field. With straight-forward, how-to advice from experts in various fields, we strive to enhance quality of care and improve the daily operation of dermatology practices.