Skin diseases in family medicine: prevalence and health care use.

Department of Medical Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
The Annals of Family Medicine (Impact Factor: 4.61). 01/2008; 6(4):349-54. DOI: 10.1370/afm.861
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Ongoing care for patients with skin diseases can be optimized by understanding the incidence and population prevalence of various skin diseases and the patient-related factors related to the use of primary, specialty, and alternative health care for these conditions. We examined the recent prevalence of skin diseases in a defined population of family medicine patients, self-reported disease-related quality of life, extent and duration of skin disease, and the use of health care by patients with skin diseases.
We undertook a morbidity registry-based epidemiological study to determine the prevalence of various skin diseases, using a patient questionnaire to inquire about health care use, within a network of family practices in the Netherlands with a practice population of approximately 12,000 citizens.
Skin diseases accounted for 12.4% of all diseases seen by the participating family physicians. Of the 857 questionnaires sent to patients registered with a skin disease, 583 (68.0%) were returned, and 501 were suitable for analysis. In the previous year, 83.4% of the patients had contacted their family physician for their skin disease, 17.0% had contacted a medical specialist, and 5.2% had consulted an alternative health care practitioner. Overall, 65.1% contacted only their family physician. Patients who reported more severe disease and lower quality of life made more use of all forms of health care.
This practice population-based study found that skin diseases account for 12.4% of diseases seen by family physicians, and that some skin problems may be seen more frequently. Although patients with more extensive skin diseases also obtain care from dermatologists, most patients have their skin diseases treated mainly by their family physician. Overall, patients with more severe disease and a lower quality of life seek more treatment.

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