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Improving access to dermatology care

At the Australasian College of Dermatologists, we understand that accessing specialist dermatology care isn’t always easy

What do dermatologists do?

Dermatologists specialise in the diagnosis, treatment and management of all skin diseases and conditions, including skin cancer. In the same way cardiologists are the specialists in heart health, dermatologists are the specialists in skin health.

With skills and expertise spanning medical, surgical and procedural dermatology, specialist dermatologists are at the forefront of skin health research and innovation.

Access to specialist dermatology services leads to improved patient outcomes [1] and drives efficiencies within the health system [2].

What does the College do?

The Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD) is the sole medical college accredited by the Australian Medical Council for the training and continuing professional development of medical practitioners in the specialty of dermatology. As the national peak membership organisation, we represent over 590 Fellows (dermatologists) and 100 trainees.

We are the leading authority in Australia for dermatology, providing information, advocacy and advice to patients, communities, government and other stakeholders on skin health and dermatological practice.

So why can it be so hard to access the care I need? 

Accessing a dermatologist can be difficult. In Australia we have a substantial shortage of specialist dermatologists with just 590 nationwide. 

With roughly 2 dermatologists per 100,000 Australians [3], it’s not surprising how hard it can be, particularly for people in regional, rural and remote communities.   

Ensuring Australia has enough dermatologists in the years ahead will be vital to addressing these access issues.

More outreach services and funding allocated to public hospitals for dermatology services and training will be essential to address these issues in the future, especially with a projected shortfall of 90 dermatologists by 2030. 

So, what needs to happen?

To increase the number of dermatologists, we need to increase the number of training places nationally. This requires collaborative effort with federal, state and territory governments to:

Allocate more funding to train and employ more dermatologists in the public system, particularly in regional hospitals where too often there is no dermatologist at all. 

Continue to encourage and invest in innovative service delivery models, such as telehealth, to support people to access timely, appropriate and ongoing care.

Enable more outreach services by providing funding to allow dermatologists to travel more frequently to rural and regional areas

What is ACD doing to make this happen?

ACD’s vision is for the highest standard of skin health and dermatology care to be available and accessible to all patients and communities. We want all Australians with skin, hair and nail conditions to be able to access the care they need. 

 

We are actively pursuing innovative models for delivery of specialist dermatology care, interprofessional support and training that can encourage and enable a future generation of dermatologists to pursue careers delivering care and support for currently underserviced communities.

Alongside this, we recognise the invaluable role of GPs in that continuum of care. Our courses, developed and delivered by dermatologists, are supporting GPs and other health practitioners to upskill so that they can respond confidently to the skin health needs of their patients and know at what point a referral for specialist care is needed.

To find out more about our courses for GPs, GP registrars, prevocational doctors and nurses, visit our dedicated education arm, Dermatology Australasia.

We are also working with universities to provide medical students with greater exposure to dermatology as a subject in medical curriculum. 

What can I do? 

There is a role for each of us to raise awareness of the impact of skin, hair and nail conditions and the need for better access to specialist care. 

We at ACD, encourage the general public to get involved and learn more about skin. 

Be skin aware and check out our A–Z of Skin.

Find out more about the impact of skin, hair and nail conditions and the challenges people face by reading our report: More than skin deep: Skin diseases in Australia – navigating the healthcare system

Use your newfound knowledge to educate your family, friends and colleagues on skin conditions and the need to address Australia’s shortage of dermatologists

If you’re someone with a skin condition, don’t suffer alone – talk to your doctor or reach out to a patient support group. Find out more about how to see a dermatologist and find support groups by visiting our new Help, helps resource hub.

Write to your local state and federal MPs and raise awareness of the lack of dermatological services in your region.

References

[1] Tran H, Chen K, Lim AC, et al., ‘Assessing diagnostic skill in dermatology: A comparison between general practitioners and dermatologists’, Australas J Dermatol. 2005 Nov;46(4):230-4.

[2] Australian Government Department of Health (DoH), Australia’s Future Health Workforce – Dermatology, May 2017, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/australias-future-health-workforce-dermatology-report, accessed Aug 2018.

[3] Figure is based on the current number of practicing fellows of the College and the ABS Population Clock, accessed on 6 Oct 2021 via:  https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs%40.nsf/Web%2BPages/Population%2BClock?opendocument=&ref=HPKI