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Blog: How to advise dermatology patients

What to consider when dealing with patients with dermatological complaints

While skin conditions are often seen to be a minor problem, they can cause considerable disruption to the lives of patients and their families. 

As health professionals, we are increasingly encouraged to involve patients and families in treatment decisions rooted in a sound evidence base. I have written about the importance of this before, and as we come to the end of 2016, I felt I should provide you with a gift that will further support your practice.

We can probably all recall examples when we have been questioned and challenged by our patients and families about their condition and treatments options. I remember on one occasion where I met a family for the first time while attending their appointment with the most recent NICE Guidance.

It was a productive and open consultation that benefitted us all. However, not every consultation involves discussing the current guidance from the onset. Many patients and their families have often gleaned informationfrom friends, colleagues, the general public and family or trawled the Internet, magazines and news articles relating to their condition. They often find very obscure,frightening stories that then need to be discussed with a healthcare professional for reassurance.

As healthcare professionals, we are increasingly using social media to share guidance, best practice and research. But not everyone uses these platforms. Patients and their families are often frustrated by the dismissive way their skin condition is managed and want to know more.

We need to recognize that patients can become experts who have a sound knowledge of their own condition, treatment preferences and outcomes and within dermatology. Many have influenced clinical practice and research. 

Access to good quality, relevant information on the seriousness of the condition, the likely risks and benefits associated with the treatment options, comprehensive and accurate information about their medicines and the problems that are likely to occur and how these may affect the patient and their family’s everyday life are important considerations when providing care (Lawton et al 2005).   

The dermatology consultation, assessment and discussion should be supported with appropriate information for patients and their families. The gift I bring to you at the end of 2016 is the importance of signposting our patients, their families and colleagues to the appropriate Patient Support Group. The link provides a comprehensive list of dermatology specific groups that can provide information and support, not only for our patients but also to you as a healthcare professional working with dermatology patients.  

Lawton, S., Roberts, A and Gibb, C (2005) Supporting the parents of children with atopic eczema. British Journal of Nursing. Vol.14.No.13.pp693-696.