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Part 1: The Value of Vitiligo Support Groups for Patients and Providers

Featuring Richard Huggins, MD |

Member of the board of directors at the Global Vitiligo Foundation 
Detroit, MI

| Published June 20, 2024

In this Topical Conversations special edition 4-part series, Richard Huggins, MD, dermatologist and member of the board of directors at the Global Vitiligo Foundation, is joined by Amaris Geisler, MD, Katie O’Connell, MS, and Tonja Johnson of the Beautifully Unblemished Vitiligo Support Group, to discuss their publication on the importance of vitiligo patient support groups

In Part 1, they explore how these groups can provide value to both patients and providers and provide some tips on how to start incorporating support groups and related resources into your practice. 

A window into the patient experience 

In dermatology, disease and its impact is often measured by morbidity and by patient experience. It is crucial for healthcare providers (HCPs) to make time to listen to patients and create treatment plans that incorporate the social aspects of cutaneous diseases. Support groups offer HCPs an invaluable opportunity to engage more deeply with patients, allowing for extra time to understand their experiences and concerns. 

One of the most significant benefits HCPs can derive from support groups is the wealth of knowledge gained about patients' lives. For example, consider a patient who neglects other aspects of their health due to the embarrassment associated with a skin condition. Support groups help HCPs recognize that the patient experience extends beyond the visible symptoms. These groups offer HCPs the chance to share experiences with patients, bringing back the emotional connection to medicine that may sometimes be lost over time. 

Valuable research opportunities for enhanced patient care 

Support groups also serve as excellent hubs for research. Discussions within these groups can be a basis for qualitative research, and surveys can provide additional valuable data. Participation in support groups gives HCPs profound insights into patients' lives and their experiences, which can enhance patient care. 

Incorporating support groups and resources into your practice 

To begin integrating support groups and related resources into your daily practice, consider the following tips: 

  • Distribute informational flyers. Provide flyers from organizations such as the Global Vitiligo Foundation or Hope for HS during clinic visits. Handing out these flyers can help patients feel supported, addressing their emotional burden and potentially increasing patient satisfaction. 
  • Provide online resources. If you don't have physical flyers, verbally provide website information, write it down for patients, or include it in their discharge notes. This simple gesture can help guide patients towards support. 
  • Encourage participation and seek feedback. Encourage patients to participate in support groups and ask for their feedback. Even if HCPs can't attend the groups personally, patient feedback can still offer significant insights into their experiences and needs. 

For a deeper understanding of how to effectively incorporate vitiligo support groups into your practice, don't miss Part 2, where the discussion explores the critical importance of integrating mental health support within a support group setting.


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