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Healthcare beyond borders: how one dermatologist is improving the lives of indigenous communities 

Published on June 9, 2023  |  By: RubiconMD

Meet Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, and a RubiconMD specialist.

We sat down with Dr. Chacon to get her insights on the impact of virtual specialty care, and to learn about her work bringing dermatological care to indigenous communities.

eConsults can be very efficient and impactful for dermatology patients. Can you talk about the value that virtual dermatology brings to your patients?

eConsults are so valuable because they reach even the most remote patients. Patients sometimes put off receiving treatment since there aren’t enough dermatologists in some parts of the US, but thanks to eConsults, those patients can receive remote care more conveniently. eConsults save patients a lot of money, especially those who live in rural regions where there aren’t many healthcare professionals and travel to clinics might be difficult.

How common is it for dermatologists to see patients who are primary care referrals in their clinic that could have been managed via eConsult or telehealth?

Ever since the pandemic, it has been uncommon for doctors learning to utilize eConsults and telehealth. Through enhanced connections and communication, education for PCPs on how to manage specialty illnesses, speeding up access to care, and standardizing the referral process, eConsults promote the transition between PCPs and specialists.

What are some common dermatological conditions that a PCP might see in a primary care setting where an eConsult might benefit them?

Skin rashes are the most common. PCPs can manage these issues to cut down on overuse of costly dermatology referrals.

Let’s talk about your personal work and mission of delivering healthcare to indigenous communities. You exemplify and embody the mission of democratizing healthcare. Tell us about your inspiring work delivering care to patients outside of the office.

I’ve always had a passion for supporting patients to resolve their dermatologic conditions, and that includes the indigenous peoples. Personally, I believe every indigenous person has a right to high-quality, culturally appropriate medical treatment. Rural and tribal populations in the United States can receive remote dermatological care thanks to Indigenous Dermatology, which is the non-profit where I serve as CEO. 

We work to deliver culturally relevant care to hard-to-reach indigenous communities throughout North America. We also advocate for more culturally diverse curricula and perspectives in medical school training, which is critical since creating access for these communities requires well-trained staff. Our work aims to eliminate the social, economic, physical, and cultural barriers indigenous communities experience. 

This work allows me to help others and working for underserved communities is what motivates me every day. I adore being able to assist others.

What are some of the most common conditions and issues you see in your work with the indigenous population? How can virtual specialty care like eConsults and telehealth make an impact when it comes to treating those conditions?

Indigenous people tend to develop skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis, which greatly affect their quality of life. Some indigenous people reside in isolated communities, while some have experienced a level of urbanization. They often display different clinical patterns from non-indigenous people, which is why a separate, culturally sensitive approach to care is needed. As an indigenous health professional, I have also developed my ability to facilitate culturally appropriate healthcare.

When it comes to eConsults and telehealth, affordability, convenience, and stress reduction for patients have all been greatly enhanced. 

What are you most passionate about? What do you see as the future of telehealth and dermatology? What are you excited about as the field evolves?

Teledermatology is my area of expertise and I’m excited about its expansion. Virtual care has a significant impact not only on the indigenous communities I serve but on everyone.

I am the only dermatologist with a license in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two US territories (Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). As is evident in my practice, I am passionate about helping patients improve their quality of life, and I value affordability, accessibility, and quality. The majority of my patients are able to schedule an appointment or have their needs catered to within 24 hours of a request at a reasonable fee. I’m thrilled to provide broad-reaching care to everyone who needs it, and the future of virtual care looks ripe with opportunities to serve more patients.

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