Consultative dermatologists, or dermatology hospitalists (DHs), perform a critical role in the care of inpatients with skin disease, providing efficient diagnosis and management of patients with complex skin conditions as well as education of patients and trainees in the hospital setting.1 In 2013, 27% of the US population was seen by a physician for a skin disease.2 In 2014, there were nearly 650,000 hospital admissions principally for skin disease.3 Input by dermatologists facilitates accurate diagnosis and management of inpatients with skin disease,4 including a substantial number of cutaneous malignancies diagnosed in the inpatient setting.5 Several studies have highlighted the generally low level of diagnostic concordance between referring services and dermatology consultants,4,6 with dermatology consultants frequently noting diagnoses not considered by referring services,7 reinforcing the importance of having access to dermatologists in the hospital setting.
The care of skin disease in the inpatient setting has become increasingly complex. The Society for Dermatology Hospitalists (SDH) was created in 2009 to address this complexity, with the goal to “strive to develop the highest standards of clinical care of hospitalized patients with skin disease.”8 A recent survey found that 50% of DHs spend between 41 to 52 weeks per year on service.9 Despite this degree of commitment, there are considerable barriers that prevent the majority of dermatologists from efficiently providing inpatient consultative care. The inpatient and outpatient provision of dermatology care varies greatly, including the variety of ethical situations encountered and the diversity of skin conditions treated.10-12 Additionally, the transition between inpatient and outpatient care can be challenging for providers.13
The goal of this study was to evaluate the overall job satisfaction of DHs and further describe potential barriers to inpatient dermatology consultations.
An anonymous 31-question electronic survey was sent via email to all current members of the SDH from November 20 to December 10, 2018. The study was reviewed and determined to be exempt from federal human subjects regulations by the University of Washington Human Subjects Division (Seattle, Washington)(STUDY00005832).
At the time of survey distribution, the SDH had 145 members, including attending-level dermatologists and resident members. Thirty-seven self-identified DHs (46% [17/37] women; 54% [20/37] men) completed the survey. The majority of respondents were junior faculty, with 46% (17/37) assistant professors, 5% (2/37) acting instructors, 32% (12/37) associate professors, and 16% (6/37) professors. All regions of the United States were represented.
Time Dedicated to Providing Inpatient Dermatology Consultations
The majority of those surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied (68% [25/37]) with the amount of time allotted for inpatient dermatology consultations, while 14% (5/37) were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied. Of those surveyed, 46% (17/37) reported that 21% to 50% of their time is dedicated to inpatient dermatology consultations. The majority (57% [21/37]) reported that their outpatient clinic efforts are reduced when providing dermatology inpatient consultations.
Regarding travel to the inpatient practice site, 60% (22/37) rated their travel time/effort as very easy, with 38% (14/37) reporting that the sites at which they provide inpatient dermatology consultations and their main outpatient clinics are the same physical location; 38% (14/37) reported travel times of less than 15 minutes between clinical practice sites.
Eighty-nine percent (33/37) of respondents said they are able to spend more time teaching trainees when providing inpatient dermatology consultations compared to their time spent in clinic. Similarly, 70% (26/37) said they are able to spend more time learning about patients and their conditions when providing inpatient dermatology consultations. Respondents also reported additional time expenditures because of inpatient dermatology consultations, primarily additional teaching requirements (49% [18/37]), additional electronic medical record training (35% [13/37]), and credentialing requirements (24% [9/37]).
Infrastructure for Providing Inpatient Dermatology Consultations
For many respondents (30% [11/37]), only 2 faculty dermatologists regularly provide inpatient dermatology consultations at their institutions. Four respondents reported having at least 5 faculty dermatologists who regularly provide inpatient dermatology consultations; excluding these, the average number of DHs was 2.42 faculty per institution.
Most respondents (57% [21/37]) reported their institutions support inpatient dermatology services by providing salary support for residents to cover services. Other methods of support included dedicated office spaces (30% [11/37]), free hospital parking while providing inpatient consultations (24% [9/37]), and administrative support (11% [4/37]).
Respondents indicated that requests for DH consultations most often come from medical services, including medical intensive care, internal medicine, and family medicine (95% [35/37]); the emergency department (95% [35/37]); surgical services (92% [34/37]); and hematology/oncology (89% [33/37]). Fewer DHs reported receiving consultation requests from pediatrics (70% [26/37]).
Many respondents (49% [18/37]) reported consulting for patients with skin disorders that they considered to be life-threatening or potentially life-threatening either very frequently (daily) or frequently (several times weekly), with only 16% (6/37) responding that they see such patients about once per month.