Trend: Dermatologists give cosmetic patients red carpet treatment

Increasingly, dermatologists are offering a broad range of cosmetic services to patients--several million a year, according to estimates by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. This is no surprise, given that a Botox shot to the forehead can offer $500 per 10 minute treatment, while insurers may pay only $60 to $90 for a visit that includes a 10-minute full-body check for skin cancer.

While no one is suggesting that offering beauty treatments is inherently a bad thing, some observers have started to question the way dermatologists juggle care for beauty treatment customers and traditional dermatological patients. Often, dermatologists offer luxury treatment to their beauty patients while offering bare-bones service to those who need traditional dermatology care like treatments for acne and psoriasis.

For example, many dermatologists offering beauty treatment offer a special dedicated telephone line for such customers, while calls for standard dermatology care go to voice mail. In some cases, doctors have hired a special receptionist--dubbed a cosmetic concierge--to attend to their beauty-treatment patients. This gives patients with traditional skin-care needs the message that their care is less important, some doctors suggest.

Worse, the increasing emphasis on beauty treatment may impact patients' health. A study published last year in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that dermatologists in 11 American cities and one county offered faster appointments to a patient calling about Botox than someone calling about a changing mole, which could be a sign of skin cancer.

Meanwhile, some dermatologists are so eager to focus on beauty treatments that they're handing off many of their medical dermatology patients to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, another practice that worries observers. However, this may be partly because demand for medical dermatology services is greater than the supply.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this article from The New York Times

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