alt=a man considering seeing a second dermatologist

Do I Need a Second Dermatologist?

  • “His next available appointment is in three months.”
  • “She just went on vacation.”
  • “I’m sorry but the doctor is sick today and will need to reschedule. How about the end of next month?”
  • “The doctor has opted out of your insurance, but can take you next spring at a reduced rate.”
  • “He is primarily handling elective procedures now. Have you considered the medical school?”
  • “No, there are no other doctors in this practice even though there are other names on the door.”

Unable to schedule an appointment with my dermatologist

You can’t make this stuff up and I am not. I have heard all of these since I started seeing a dermatologist regularly in 1988. That was the year that I was diagnosed with melanoma and had never heard of that word. In the skin cancer world waiting can be the worst part. Waiting for results, waiting for surgery, waiting for healing, and certainly waiting for an appointment.

Sometimes I feel like Jerry, Elaine, and George from the Seinfeld episode where they are trying to get a reserved table in a restaurant. Every time they think they are about to be seated, someone goes ahead of them for some reason not known to them. The entire episode is about the wait.

In need of a back-up plan

I have been reading about folks who have two dermatologists. At first I thought that might not be for me, but I am now giving it some thought. Why not have a backup plan? Theater has understudies if the main actor cannot show. Sports teams have backups. Why not have two doctors on my team? Can it hurt?

How is having two doctors different from a second opinion?

I have always been a proponent of getting second opinions. Having a second dermatologist with a thorough knowledge of my case might not be a bad idea. If I am not sure about one diagnosis, why not get it confirmed by a second professional? Insurance companies require me to get multiple estimates when my car is damaged in an accident. Aren’t I more valuable than my sedan?

This leads me to my first point. When I notice something on my skin, I hate waiting to see a doctor.

I know that many people don’t have the luxury of seeing another physician, but if it’s available to me, why not? If something is cancerous, I want it gone, yesterday. I don’t want to wait for dermatologist to return from Hawaii.

What are the downsides?

I know there could be some downsides. Some insurance companies may not cover expenses related to multiple dermatology appointments from various doctors in a short amount of time. There could be issues with one or both doctors not having complete medical records for the best diagnosis and treatment. Other physicians just might not like the whole process.

My thought is to have conversations with your insurance company and doctors about this. At the end of the day, everyone should be committed to the best level of care for the community. I want to be my best advocate and get the best treatment possible. If that means having a team behind me, then that is what I need to do.

What are your thoughts?

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