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    Do you whistle while you work? You should.

    Practice setting should allow dermatologists to balance life and lifestyle

    When I was a kid, I remember having a small amount of dread whenever my mother took me to see my pediatrician Dr. Storts, a solo practitioner, for some routine vaccination, a lingering sore throat or cough, or a small cut or abrasion.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like Dr. Storts; in fact, I think I actually almost enjoyed those visits.  Although, it seemed that most of these visits ended with me getting a shot of some sort, he would talk to me — even though I was just a kid.    

    Another thing I remember vividly about those visits was the way I could tell he was progressing down the hall: working his way from one room onto the next until he reached my room for the eventual encounter with “the needle.” He whistled! He actually whistled a lot! I really don’t know if this was a sign that he either really enjoyed his work or that he was really looking forward to the shot that he would likely give me (kidding). 

    Looking back, it's interesting to note what it was like to practice pediatrics 50-60 years ago in the solo practitioner’s office: except for the nurse taking the patient’s vital signs, the doctor did almost everything. He wrote a brief one or two line note in the patient’s chart (certainly not up to the standards of today’s electronic medical record), discussed the diagnosis and treatment, filled out the necessary requisition for lab tests, drew up the medication into a syringe, and administered the “dreaded shot.”

    READ: Establish brand identity to unleash your practice’s potential

    My reason for bringing this up is related to the details of a recent AAD dermatology practice survey that have just been released. This survey shows a continued decline over the past nearly ten years in the percentage of solo dermatologists practicing in the United States.

    Since 2007, the number of dermatologists in solo practice has dropped from 44% to 35% in 2014. This decline is even more striking when one looks at the ages of the dermatologists in solo practice settings. The most recent survey results from 2014 show that only 15% of dermatologists under 40 years of age are in solo practice. As age increases, so does the statistic: 40 to 49 years of age (28%), 50-59 years of age (41%), and over 60 years of age (50%). These results clearly show that fewer younger dermatologists are practicing in solo settings while those older dermatologists over 60 years are continuing that practice.

    The AAD survey shows that for all age groups in dermatology, except those over 60 years of age, the combined percentages of dermatologists in dermatology specialty group practices and multispecialty group practices average 50-60%. The real question is why has this dramatic change occurred?

    NEXT: A Changing lanscape

    Ronald G. Wheeland, M.D.
    Ronald G. Wheeland, M.D., is a private practitioner in Tucson, Ariz. He is former president of the American Academy of Dermatology, the ...


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