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Skin Cancer Patients Face Long Wait for Appointment

Dermatology patients with potentially malignant skin lesions wait as long as routine patients

WEDNESDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- Dermatology patients with urgent problems, such as suspected skin cancer lesions, wait as long to see a physician as patients with ordinary conditions, regardless of whether they are Medicare or out-of-pocket patients, researchers report in the July issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Jack S. Resneck, Jr., M.D., of the University of California San Francisco, and a colleague investigated waiting times for Medicare and out-of-pocket patients by making simulated calls to 851 dermatologists' offices posing as a patient concerned about a changing mole. They contacted urban offices that are representative of about 10 percent of the practices in the United States.

The researchers found that out-of-pocket patients faced a mean waiting time of 38.2 days for an appointment, versus 38.9 days for Medicare patients. Waiting periods differed by geographic locations, ranging from a mean of 19.7 days in Little Rock, Ark. to 73.4 days in Boston.

At practices using a physician extender (23.3 percent), the mean wait-time was 27.9 days to see the physician's assistant or nurse practitioner, about half the 45.8-day wait for physicians in the same practice, the researchers report.

"Patients with a changing pigmented lesion, a possible indicator of malignancy, face wait-times just as long as those previously published for patients with routine complaints," the authors write.

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