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September 1996

A Comparison of Dermatologists and Generalists: Management of Childhood Atopic Dermatitis

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Dermatology, Bassett Healthcare, Cooperstown, NY (Dr Resnick), and the Department of Dermatology (Dr Hornung) and the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research (Dr Konrad), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Arch Dermatol. 1996;132(9):1047-1052. doi:10.1001/archderm.1996.03890330061011

Background and Design:  To compare the approaches of generalist physicians and dermatologists in the management of childhood atopic dermatitis (AD), a 6-page questionnaire was developed to assess specific practice characteristics and therapeutic preferences. Surveys were mailed to all board-certified dermatologists in North Carolina (n=173) and to a sample of pediatricians (n=200) and family medicine physicians (n=300) randomly selected from the North Carolina Health Professions Database. There were 307 eligible respondents, defined as those who see children with AD, and 112 ineligible respondents. The response rate of eligible respondents was 62%. The specialty-specific response rates were as follows: 76% for dermatologists, 70% for pediatricians, and 49% for family medicine physicians.

Results:  Dermatologists reported seeing the largest number of patients with AD, followed by pediatricians and family medicine physicians. Dermatologists also reported seeing the highest percentage of pediatric patients with moderate or severe AD (59%), followed by pediatricians (27%) and family medicine physicians (19%). Regardless of the severity of the AD, dermatologists consistently indicated a greater preference for more intensive therapy compared with generalists, as demonstrated by their preference for prescribing more potent topical steroids. Also, dermatologists were more likely than pediatricians (22%) and family medicine physicians (8%) to report "frequent use" of oral antibiotics for AD (63%).

Conclusions:  These striking interspecialty differences are likely to affect the outcome and cost of care of childhood AD. The data support the argument for conducting further studies of generalists' and dermatologists' approach to childhood AD, correlating therapeutic approaches with clinical outcomes and costs.Arch Dermatol. 1996;132:1047-1052

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