ASDS Survey Highlights Teledermatology Boom, Staffing Challenges, and Other Ways COVID-19 Upended Practice

ASDS Survey Sites Teledermatology Boom Staffing Challenges and Other Ways Pandemic Upended Practice image

ASDS members report an overall 187 percent increase in telehealth appointments.

From dramatic upticks in the use of teledermatology to staffing challenges and delays in procedures, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect dermatology practices and patients, according to a new survey from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS). 

Practice Impact

ASDS members encountered various operational impacts including 72 percent of responders experiencing personal protective equipment supply challenges. As various states instituted lockdowns and deemed dermatologists non-essential, 90 percent of responders had limited operation during some period of the pandemic, with more than half forced to reduce staff. Group practices (60%) and solo practices (49%) were the most impacted by employee reductions. As members reopened their offices, they were finding it difficult to rehire in an extremely stressed healthcare professional employee market and navigate the “great resignation” environment. Stabilized staffing continues to be a challenge for 85 percent of those surveyed.

Patient Impact

Telemedicine gained momentum and adoption by ASDS membership. The survey showed an overall 187 percent increase in telehealth appointments with responders, while survey participants that offered telemedicine pre-pandemic saw a 226 percent increase in telehealth appointments. Many members had to adapt their type of patient communications. Digital channels rose with responders increasing emails (47%), social media (27%) and offering virtual education options (21%).

Procedural Impact

With access to care affected, many patients had to defer seeing their physician. 83 percent of responders’ patients experienced delays in skin checks or skin cancer follow up care. 70 percent of survey participants observed skin cancers they assessed and treated following reopening were larger or more aggressive by the time the patient was examined.

Many people transitioned to a remote virtual reality – spending hours a day looking at themselves on video calls – which drove the “Zoom effect” of patients wanting to improve what they were seeing on camera. Fully 52 percent of responders welcomed new patients as a result of this phenomenon, and this effect drove 80 percent of responders’ existing patients to seek cosmetic treatments. The most popular cosmetic treatments during the reopening phase included wrinkle relaxing injections (65%), soft tissue fillers (54%) and laser / light / energy-based device treatments (40%).

“It’s important to learn from the past to shape our response and decisions for the future,” says ASDS President Sue Ellen Cox, MD, in a news release. “This survey reveals the significant challenges our membership experienced, but even more so, highlights our ability to overcome obstacles, innovate to provide the best patient care and advance the future of our specialty.”

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