Hospital Consult

The Role of Inpatient Dermatology Consultations

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Impact on Hospitalization and Efficacy—Dermatology performed 217 consultations regarding patients already admitted to the hospital, and 92% remained hospitalized either due to comorbidities or complicated cutaneous conditions following the consultation. The remaining 8% were cleared for discharge. Dermatology received 36 consultation requests from emergency medicine physicians. Fifty-three percent of these patients were admitted, while the remaining 47% were discharged from the emergency department or its observation unit following evaluation.

Fifty-one percent of all consultations were noted to have improvement in their cutaneous condition by the time of discharge, as noted in the physical examination, progress note, or discharge summary of the primary team. Thirty percent of cases remained stable, where improvement was not noted in in the medical record. Most of these cases involved keratinocyte carcinomas scheduled for outpatient excision, benign melanocytic nevi found on FBSE, and benign etiologies that led to immediate discharge following consultation. Three percent of all consultations were noted to have worsened following consultation, including cases of calciphylaxis, vasculopathies, and purpura fulminans, as well as patients who elected for palliative care and hospice. The cutaneous condition by the time of discharge could not be determined from the medical record in 16% of all consultations.

Eighty-five percent of all consultations required a single encounter with dermatology. An additional 10% required a single follow-up with dermatology, while only 5% of patients required 3 or more encounters. Notably, these cases included patients with 1 or more severe cutaneous diseases, such as Sweet syndrome, calciphylaxis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis, and hidradenitis suppurativa.


Although dermatology often is viewed as an outpatient specialty, this study provides a glimpse into the ways inpatient dermatology consultations optimize the care of hospitalized patients. Most consultations involved assistance in diagnosing an unknown condition, but several regarded pre-existing skin disorders requiring management aid. As a variety of medical specialties requested consultations, dermatology was able to provide care to a diverse group of patients with conditions varying in complexity and severity. Several specialties benefited from niche dermatologic expertise: hematology and oncology frequently requested dermatology to assist in diagnosis and management of the toxic effects of chemotherapy, cutaneous metastasis, or suspected cutaneous infections in immunocompromised patients. Cardiology patients were frequently evaluated for potential malignancy or infection prior to heart transplantation and initiation of antirejection immunosuppressants. Dermatology was consulted to differentiate cutaneous manifestations of critical illness from underlying systemic disease in the intensive care unit, and patients presenting to the emergency department often were examined to determine if hospital admission was necessary, with 47% of these consultations resulting in a discharge following evaluation by a dermatologist.

Our results were consistent with prior studies1,5,6 that have reported frequent changes in final diagnosis following dermatology consultation, with 69% of working diagnoses changed in this study when consultation was requested for diagnostic assistance. When dermatology was consulted for diagnostic assistance, several of these cases lacked a preliminary differential diagnosis. Although the absence of a documented differential diagnosis may not necessarily reflect a lack of suspicion for a particular etiology, 86% of all consultations included a ranked differential or working diagnosis either in the consultation request or progress note prior to consultation. The final diagnoses of consultations without a preliminary diagnosis varied from the mild and localized to systemic and severe, further suggesting these cases reflected knowledge gaps of the primary medical team.


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