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Online dermatology & the "myth" of patient cannibalization

"If I use DermatologistOnCall, I'm worried my patients won't want to come see me anymore at my office."

At Iagnosis we've heard a refrain similar to the one shown above when talking with providers at conferences, on the phone, in emails, etc. It's what we call the "fear of cannibalization." No, it's not literal cannibalizations, but to some, it can seem just as scary. Many dermatologists fear that introducing a virtual visit capability to their practice will take away from their in-office visit volume. Sounds like reasonable fear, right? Well, not exactly…

Dermatology practices are already seeing patient volume move away from their offices as wait times increase and other options geared towards convenience proliferate. A 2013 study by Harris Williams & Co. Ltd, stated that fewer than 30% of visits for medical dermatology complaints are being seen by dermatologists due to supply and demand issues. This means that dermatology patients are, in large part, already seeking treatment outside of their dermatologist's office.

Where are these people going? Well, you don't have to drive far to see and express or urgent care facility. These businesses have tapped into a clear market need for offering the conveniences of extended hours and no wait times — a significant draw for many busy people, who are often even willing to pay 100% out of pocket for the benefit. And, for the patient who feels they have no other options for an acute condition they deem severe enough, they will check themselves in, at great cost, to the ER to get quick relief.

We can all probably agree that when people seek treatment outside of a board-certified dermatologist, it's much more likely the chance of misdiagnosis is much higher and/or the treatment plan less effective. But, when these patients just want something done quickly, they are willing to take this chance in favor of speed, convenience, and anxiety reduction.

So with people already looking outside the dermatologist office for solutions, a teledermatology platform like DermatologistOnCall can actually result not in cannibalism, but in an increase in patients who are receiving proper specialized care.

Our founder, Mark P. Seraly, MD, recently talked about the "myth of cannibalization" in his web video series. Click below to hear from him in this 2-minute video:

So just to summarize the benefits of going "telederm"…

For existing patients: By using DermatologistOnCall, dermatologists can offer existing patients a convenient option for conditions that don't necessitate tying up office appointment slots and exam rooms — especially those with relatively straight-forward, acute but non-urgent, easy-to-diagnose conditions. Most of those conditions take less than 5 minutes to diagnose online and send an e prescription. This is a fraction of the time it would take in an in-office visit. Also, using DermatologistOnCall as a teletriage tool for lumps and bumps can also increase revenue.

For new patients: Every dermatologist has by now heard from patients who research conditions and treatments online. By making your services available and marketable on the web and through mobile apps, this increases your chances of capturing new patients who are seeking a dermatologist, particularly one that offers online treatment solutions.

Many of the over 140 dermatologists who have integrated online care into their practice through DermatologistOnCall have seen patient and revenue growth as a result. Plus, it can help solidify longer-term doctor-patient relationships that keep up with our evolving world.

After working with us at DermatologistOnCall, we think you'll agree that online visits are a great way to efficiently generate new patients and retain existing patients who may seek out care from other providers in the name of convenience.

To learn more about becoming a provider, please contact us for a demo.