If you’ve recently been diagnosed with psoriasis, seeing your doctor again soon could be the key to successful treatment.
It’s been well-established that frequent follow-up visits for patients undergoing treatment are beneficial. But a study published last month in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that many skin disease patients do not see their doctor often enough.
Researchers analyzed a Medicaid database over a four-year period, from 2003-2007, to determine the length of time between a patient’s diagnosis with psoriasis, acne or eczema, and their first follow-up visit. The study included 32,375 people with psoriasis.
Because dermatologic treatments can improve symptoms in as little as a week, the researchers note, scheduling a follow-up visit one to two weeks after the patient’s initial visit could be useful. However, the study results indicated that only 19.8 percent of psoriasis patients saw their doctor again within that time frame. The average time before a follow-up visit for psoriasis was 153 days (approximately five months) for adults, and 142 days (approximately four months) for children.
Follow-up times for the other diseases were similar in adults, the researchers report. For children, average follow-up times for eczema and acne were more than 200 days.
Results also indicated that most patients did not have any follow-up visits. More than half of adults (53.9 percent) and more than two-thirds of children (67.3 percent) with psoriasis did not see their doctor again for this disease.
Despite these findings, frequent follow-up visits often result in more successful treatments. According to the researchers, patients are more likely to follow their doctor’s treatment guidelines when they have an upcoming office visit. Studies of other diseases, such as diabetes and stroke, have also found that patient outcomes and satisfaction improve when with more frequent doctor’s appointments, the researchers note.
The study did not take into account follow-up delays caused by patient no-shows, and was limited to studying patients who are on Medicaid. Nevertheless, the researchers recommend that guidelines for treating dermatologic diseases emphasize the importance of early follow-up visits for all patients.