Although there is a limited number of dermatologists in the United States the demand for these services has remained strong. Currently, there are only a little more than 5,500 dermatology practices in the country.1 Labeled an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic, dermatology practices did not fully shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, even during its height. During this time, dermatologists focused on providing essential medical procedures and continued serving their patient base.
Now, most practices are operating business-as-usual or nearing pre-pandemic volume and are addressing the backlog of patients who were not seen during the pandemic. Doctors report patient wait times of 6 months in some clinics.2
With this patient reservoir and onerous wait-times in mind, there are a few considerations dermatologists should take into account if they are looking to grow their practice to accommodate the demand for their services.
Real estate and capacity needs: Due to strong patient demand, many dermatologists are finding that their current real estate no longer meets their business needs, and they may need a larger facility or additional practice locations to grow their practice and expand their current patient base. When thinking about clinic real estate, dermatologists should ask:
- Is a larger bigger office space needed to accommodate more patients?
- Does my current real estate meet my practice’s needs and future growth plans?
- Do I need to secure financing to acquire a larger space or additional locations?
- How do I transition my practice to a new location without losing my patient base or, do I plan to build up an entirely new patient base at the new location?
- Should I consider starting up a new practice, purchasing, or merging with another practice to accelerate growth?
These questions are crucial to helping dermatologists determine if their current real estate serves as a hindrance to future business growth and what additional resources may be needed to help the practice expand to meet its current and long-term growth plans.
Recently, New Jersey-based dermatology practice, Morgan Dermatology, relocated from a 5,000-square-foot facility to a more than 24,000-square-foot space, after TD Bank provided financing. The new location will allow the practice to expand from 13 to 37 treatment rooms, significantly increasing Morgan Dermatology’s ability to serve the marketplace and patient demand for dermatology services.
Telehealth offerings: Throughout the pandemic, telehealth services have expanded to allow medical professionals to continue to care for a patient base concerned with limiting in-person interactions. However, telehealth can also be used to increase the number of patients dermatologists are able to serve. Dermatologists who are not yet ready to expand practice real estate may want to consider how they can utilize telehealth to keep up with patient demand. It is important for dermatologists to evaluate how frequently telehealth is used, what services it is used for, and the length of the average telehealth appointment. Via telehealth services, dermatologists can pre-screen patients outside of the office and only bring patients into the practice when an urgent or high value-added treatment is needed. Telehealth triage of patients keeps treatment rooms available for more urgent or profitable services and allows dermatologists to serve a larger patient base through a mix of telehealth and in-person offerings.
Business model procedure makeup of medical and cosmetic/surgical services: At the height of the pandemic, dermatologists could only remain open for essential medical services, which has brought to light the importance of considering the practice’s balance of medical vs cosmetic services. The challenge facing dermatologists is finding the right practice mix of medical and cosmetic/surgery procedures and discerning what makes sense to meet their business needs, professional interests, their patients’ needs, and the future of the practice. The increasing number of cosmetic procedures offered creates more treatment options for patients while generating better cash flow and counteracting the difficulties related to managed care and reimbursement for medical procedures. In addition, many discretionary services create a patient base who need to consistently and routinely visit for monthly injectables, fillers, and the like.
Future equipment and technology needs: Many dermatologists who want to grow their practices or expand into another area may have additional technology needs. Expensive equipment is required for treatments like laser hair removal, tattoo removal, and noninvasive body shaping procedures. Also, software is needed for electronic health records (EHR) that track, support, and collect MIPS data. When planning to grow their practice, dermatologists should consider their future equipment and technology needs and whether they will require additional financing to secure these services.
It is an exciting time to be in dermatology with strong patient demand, the revitalization of telehealth, and the opportunity to expand into a variety of popular new cosmetic treatments. From real estate and technology needs to the composition of the practice, there are many strategic areas dermatologists should evaluate when thinking about their future growth strategy.
- Dermatologists in the US – Number of Business 2001 – 2026. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/dermatologists-united-states/
- Four things to know when referring to dermatology. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://providernews.seattlechildrens.org/four-things-to-know-when-referring-to-dermatology/