The future of dermatology lies in technology, changing practice models

By Abby Van Voorhees, MD

What will the dermatology practice of the future look like? That’s the big question that I and my dermatology colleagues put much thought into answering in the March 2014 special focus issue of Dermatology World.

There’s no question that dermatology is in a vortex of change, with 2014 marking significant changes to health care with the implementation of many provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But this landmark legislation is not the only major factor that will affect how we practice in the future. The convergence of technology, including virtual visits, telemedicine, EHRs, health care-related apps, and more are all part of the swirling vortex of change into which we all find ourselves being drawn.

Challenges and opportunities

As I wrote in my column introducing the issue, some of what the articles contain will please you, especially some of the technologies that enable delivery of care, but some may make you uncomfortable, like the movement away from fee-for-service and toward other payment models. There’s no question that the challenges we face are great, but so are the opportunities to expand the reach of dermatologic care to many newly insured patients and those in underserved areas.

Not only are we going to be able to reach more patients, but we will be working more closely with our colleagues in other specialties and subspecialties, forging bonds that will help all of us improve not just the quantity of the care we provide, but also its quality. New payment models are emerging that will assess whether we are achieving high-quality outcomes. We’re all going to need to work more closely in our specialty, as well as with our colleagues in other specialties, if we are to be successful in this new realm.  

                DW0314-cover.jpg Dermatology World's March issue focuses on the future of the specialty. Available online now.

Technology and scientific discovery

But of all the trends and predictions my colleagues make in this special issue, the ones I am most excited about and that have the most potential to change the way we practice are due to the accelerating rate of technological advancement and scientific discovery.

Look no further than the way smartphones have transformed our personal lives in the past decade to envision how quickly new advances will take hold. Many of us have been using apps and accessing online literature for a while now to provide instant guidance to patients. But imagine how technology will continue to transform all of our practices as they become even more digitally enabled. From the front office to the exam room, these advances no doubt will change the way we diagnose and treat patients, including the potential for more digital imaging of lesions and total body photography for observation.

When it comes to drugs and devices, we’re already seeing advances in BRAF and MEK inhibitors, but there’s more to come. Drugs will become more targeted, and it probably won’t be too long before we can look at a patient’s genome and the disease he or she is battling and come up with a medication that is customized to treat it. The future is wide open with these types of possibilities, which makes me excited to see what happens as dermatology moves through this fascinating intersection of medicine and technology.

Now that I’ve provided you with a tantalizing peek into the future of dermatology, get the full view by reading more in the March issue of Dermatology World.

Dr. Van Voorhees is an associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been Dermatology World’s physician editor since 2010.

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Related Dermatology World articles:

•    From the editor
•    What to ask if an ACO comes calling
•    What will dermatology look like in 2020?
•    The future of dermatology practices
•    Fee-for-service lives on — but for how long?
•    Imagining the future
•    The doctor is online

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