Say you've got a mole on your back that you're concerned about. It's recently changed shape, so you call a dermatologist to get it checked out (you want to make sure it's not cancer). Good luck getting an appointment.
Waiting up to 4 months to get into a dermatologist's office has become "normal" over the past few years. Even patients with potentially serious problems have to wait. Why is that?
A pair of researchers in California decided to figure that out. They called 851 dermatologists across the U.S. and pretended to be patients concerned about a "changing mole." The average wait time was 38 days. Some cities took longer: 48 days in Phoenix, and 73 in Boston!
So what's with the long waiting period? Do we have a shortage of dermatologists? Are teenagers taking up all the appointments to complain about their oily skin? Are rich old ladies taking over the office to regain their youth?
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Well, yes and no. The thing is, there are so many new treatments and procedures available and only about 300 new dermatologists are trained to do them each year.
Dermatologists are now performing cosmetic procedures like Botox injections and Thermage (a skin-tightening procedure). A patient has to pay $300-$1000 for a 15-30 minute Botox treatment, and they have to pay up front. In comparison, if a patient is going for a skin check-up (which can take several hours), the dermatologist has to wait for insurance to pay them, and when they do, it's only about $30 - $100.
So it comes down to money. While that is not much of a surprise, it is still disappointing.