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Appointment with your Dermatologist | How to prepare

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Depending on where you live, the waiting time to see a Dermatologist can be days, weeks, or even months. This chance to get in to see your doctor is a window of opportunity to have your skin questions and concerns addressed. There are several ways to come prepared for a Dermatology appointment to get the most out of your visit.

Tip #1 | Make a list

Make a list. Make a list of your questions or concerns. I routinely find that patients feel like there was just something else they wanted to ask but cannot recall. Once you make your list, rank your concerns in order of significance to you. If you have more than 3 or 4 skin concerns, when you schedule your appointment, schedule more than one appointment to give yourself the time you need to discuss your concerns. Schedule your appointments pre-emptively a few weeks or months apart depending on your level of worry. The follow-up appointment pre-scheduled will ensure that you have an appointment time that is more likely to work for your schedule and will give you a chance to follow up on your prior visit while asking a few more questions on your list. By recognizing that asking too many questions on one visit will take away from focused attention given time constraints, your visit will better serve you while respecting your time, the doctor’s time, and those waiting.

Tip #2 | Mark your spots of concern

Mark your spots of concern. There are several ways to do this.

  1. Make a stick figure and map out your concerns. Remember to make a figure for the front and back while designating right and left for a frame of reference. Also, when marking your figure, keep in mind that spots seen in the mirror can lead to some right/left confusion.

  2. Use a washable marker and circle the spots you are curious about and have a partner do this for your back and hard-to-reach areas. Remember to count your circles to make sure a spot of concern is not missed.

  3. Use a highlighter to circle spots. We can see this easily with a Wood’s lamp and it avoids color distortion of the skin from pigment left behind by markers.

Tip #3 | Take photos of your skincare products and prescriptions

Take photos of the skincare products that you use and the random prescription creams you may have. There are so many variations of products even within brands. By knowing what you already use, we can help navigate your choices. People seem to remember the brand, the first letter of the brand, or just the color of the label. By taking photos we can avoid recommending products that have not worked for you before. I also often have patients say that they think they have a cream at home but cannot recall the name. By taking photos of what is in your medicine cabinet, care can be taken to avoid redundant prescriptions or wasting money.

Tip #4 | Take photos of your spots

Take photos of the moles or spots you are worried about to help gauge for changes. By taking the time to take this kind of selfie, you can track your moles for changes. This is not a perfect tool, but it is helpful. Take a ruler, and lay it down on or near your skin for a sense of scale. Then take photos of your moles or areas where moles are located such as the back, the arms, etc. Knowing what your moles looked like at one point in time can serve as a baseline to follow.

Tip #5 | Take photos of rashes

If you get a rash, take a photo of it. Track it with photos. I realize it can take time to find time to see a dermatologist. If you could track your concerns with photos, it is easier to recall the changes your skin has experienced prior to seeing your doctor. Take photos of any products you used on the days used to track response to therapeutics you may have attempted and when they were used. Relying on descriptions is not helpful as it can be challenging to learn how to really describe cutaneous changes even for dermatology residents. Again, photos are not perfect but they can help serve to support the puzzle we are trying to assemble to find a diagnosis and guide management.


The MOST important step to take:


Patients routinely spend unnecessary time in the exam room searching through photos to find the picture of the spot they were worried about. Create the following albums on your phone and save yourself, your doctor, and the staff a lot of time by being prepared:
  • Spots

  • Skincare products

  • Prescriptions

  • Rashes

The use of what I refer to as a "digital memory" is a great resource but it requires time to be set aside for some organizing. Scrolling back through photos and relying on memories of around which date you might have taken the photo will take time away from diagnosing and discussing your skincare needs.

Tip #7 | Keep your lab reports

If you have a lab portal, either take screenshots of your lab reports and designate them into a separate album called “Lab reports”, or save PDFs in separate files but make them easily accessible on your device. With various HIPAA regulations, it has become a bit challenging for doctors to consistently track down some lab reports if they were requested by another doctor. To facilitate care it can help if the patient has copies to avoid redundant testing.

Tip #8 | Remember your passwords

Remember your passwords for your patient portals. When given the opportunity to make a patient portal to your doctor or your lab, take it seriously. Keep track of your login and passwords for easy access. Patients have quick access to their doctors and records and can facilitate communication better than we can sometimes. I often ask patients to ask their doctors for approval for certain medications we will prescribe through their portals as they often hear back sooner than we do. These also provide rapid access to labs, radiology studies, and other reports. The only issue is that so many people never remember their passwords and have to reset these in the room while trying to access their systems.


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