Hospital Consult

The Role of Inpatient Dermatology Consultations

In Partnership With the Society of Dermatology Hospitalists

Author and Disclosure Information

Inpatient dermatology has been shown to have profound effects on the care of hospitalized patients. However, dermatology consultations remain an underutilized resource. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate how dermatology affects the hospitalization of inpatients while highlighting the breadth of services provided. This cross-sectional retrospective study included all inpatient dermatology consultations completed at a large tertiary-care facility in an urban setting. It aimed to investigate the reasons for consultation, as well as the effects on diagnosis, management, disposition, and cutaneous condition by time of discharge. This study provides evidence supporting the integration of the dermatologist into the care of hospitalized patients by illuminating lesser-known areas of impact.

Practice Points

  • Inpatient dermatologists fill knowledge gaps that often alter the diagnosis, management, and hospital course of hospitalized patients.
  • Several medical specialties benefit from niche expertise of inpatient dermatologists specific to their patient population.
  • Integration of inpatient dermatology consultations can prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and medication administration.



Dermatology is an often-underutilized resource in the hospital setting. As the health care landscape has evolved, so has the role of the inpatient dermatologist.1-3 Structural changes in the health system and advances in therapies have shifted dermatology from an admitting service to an almost exclusively outpatient practice. Improved treatment modalities led to decreases in the number of patients requiring admission for chronic dermatoses, and outpatient clinics began offering therapies once limited to hospitals.1,4 Inpatient dermatology consultations emerged and continue to have profound effects on hospitalized patients regardless of their reason for admission.1-11

Inpatient dermatologists supply knowledge in areas primary medical teams lack, and there is evidence that dermatology consultations improve the quality of care while decreasing cost.2,5-7 Establishing correct diagnoses, preventing exposure to unnecessary medications, and reducing hospitalization duration and readmission rates are a few ways dermatology consultations positively impact hospitalized patients.2,5-7,9,10 This study highlights the role of the dermatologist in the care of hospitalized patients at a large academic medical center in an urban setting and reveals how consultation supports the efficiency and efficacy of other services.

Materials and Methods

Study Design—This single-institution, cross-sectional retrospective study included all hospitalized patients at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), who received an inpatient dermatology consultation completed by physicians of Jefferson Dermatology Associates between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019. The institutional review board at Thomas Jefferson University approved this study.

Data Collection—A list of all inpatient dermatology consultations in 2019 was provided by Jefferson Dermatology Associates. Through a retrospective chart review, data regarding the consultations were collected from the electronic medical record (Epic Systems) and recorded into the Research Electronic Data Capture system. Data on patient demographics, the primary medical team, the dermatology evaluation, and the hospital course of the patient were collected.


Patient Characteristics—Dermatology received 253 inpatient consultation requests during this time period; 53% of patients were female and 47% were male, with a mean age of 55 years. Most patients were White (57%), while 34% were Black. Five percent and 4% of patients were Asian and Hispanic or Latino, respectively (Table 1). The mean duration of hospitalization for all patients was 15 days, and the average number of days to discharge following the first encounter with dermatology was 10 days.

Requesting Team and Reason for Consultation—Internal medicine consulted dermatology most frequently (34% of all consultations), followed by emergency medicine (14%) and a variety of other services (Table 1). Most dermatology consultations were placed to assist in achieving a diagnosis of a cutaneous condition (77%), while a minority were to assist in the management of a previously diagnosed disease (22%). A small fraction of consultations (5%) were to complete full-body skin examinations (FBSEs) to rule out infection or malignancy in candidates for organ transplantation, left ventricular assist devices, or certain chemotherapies. One FBSE was conducted to search for a primary tumor in a patient diagnosed with metastatic melanoma.

Most Common Final Diagnoses and Consultation Impact—Table 2 lists the most common final diagnosis categories, as well as the effects of the consultation on diagnosis, management, biopsies, hospitalization, and clinical improvement as documented by the primary medical provider. The most common final diagnoses were inflammatory and autoimmune (39%), such as contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis; infectious (23%), such as varicella (primary or zoster) and bacterial furunculosis; drug reactions (20%), such as morbilliform drug eruptions; vascular (8%), such as vasculitis and calciphylaxis; neoplastic (7%), such as keratinocyte carcinomas and leukemia cutis; and other (15%), such as xerosis, keratosis pilaris, and miliaria rubra.


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