Research Report 2018

Dr. Aaron Drucker | Scientist and Dermatologist

Closing the health gaps in dermatology

In Ontario, sometimes where you live impacts the healthcare you have access to and many patients experience inequities particularly when seeking the care of specialists like dermatologists. In Toronto, a patient may be able to get an appointment with a dermatologist within a few weeks, but for patients in rural Northern Ontario an appointment can take more than six months. This means many patients across the province with chronic and debilitating skin diseases are waiting for prolonged periods of time without appropriate care.

To better understand the impact of these inequities on patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema), a chronic condition that makes the skin red and itchy, Dr. Aaron Drucker’s research is focused on accurately measuring the population burden and exploring potential disparities across communities in Ontario. Patients living in communities with decreased access to dermatologic care may be more likely to use the emergency department to receive treatment for this skin condition. Emergency room care comes with increased costs to the health system using high-cost resources to deliver inefficient care, while creating a health gap for these patients who are receiving treatment in a discontinuous, non-specialized setting. By identifying the major impacts of the disease and current gaps in its treatment at the population level, Dr. Drucker’s research will inform healthcare policy and programs to better target solutions for patients and communities in need. 

Dr. Drucker’s research is also helping ease the burden for those living with atopic dermatitis, or eczema, and addressing the mental health impact of this disease. Many patients with severe atopic dermatitis have their condition brushed off as “just a rash” and do not get the treatment that they need. In addition, the chronic, severe itch associated with the condition can lead to sleep loss and symptoms of depression. Dr. Drucker is currently investigating whether patients with severe atopic dermatitis have an increased risk of suicide due to these compounding conditions to determine if these individuals need increased screening for mental health concerns.