Dermatology Advertising: Digital Marketing to Dermatologists
When it comes to healthcare provider (HCP) marketing, the competition to earn attention is fierce—so the more specific you can get with audience targeting and messaging, the better. As we’ve said before: doctors are busy, big pharma can (and will) outspend you, and everyone wants a piece of the market revenue pie. So, for creating successful dermatology advertising campaigns, this means going beyond basic demographic data and digging deeper into dermatologist-specific segmentation and targeting. Here’s how we do it.
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Understanding the Dermatology Advertising Market
It’s important to understand the size and specifics of your target market to be able to define success.
Market Size and Growth
The dermatology market size, as measured by revenue, is approximately $8 billion.
The dermatology market has been increasing steadily for the last few years (other than the unavoidable COVID slump that impacted many specialties in 2020). This growth is largely due to changes in federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid programs coupled with changes to who can access these programs. That combination impacts the overall processes that are charged for services, the ability of patients to pay those costs, and the reimbursements that providers receive for treating beneficiaries. Federal funding is expected to continue to increase, providing additional opportunities for industry growth.
Total Addressable Market
To understand campaign success, you have to start with determining potential. When it comes to marketing to dermatologists, it’s critical to remember just how small the community is. Add in a geographic or sub-specialty layer and you might be dealing with a pretty small total addressable market.
According to AAMC, between 2014 and 2019 the total number of dermatologists increased 7.5%, to about 12,000.
Traditional Demographic Information
Traditional demographic data tends to be less important when targeting dermatologists, compared to B2C marketing. However, depending on your product, demographic information can be used to make some inferences about your audience or to help tighten audience segments for smaller dermatology advertising budgets. And dermatologists aren’t just doctors. They’re people too. So, it’s helpful to think about their circumstances and demographic distribution.
Beyond understanding the total addressable market for dermatology advertising, you have to consider your specific product or solution and who can buy it. Using age brackets can be helpful to focus on your most valuable prospects—especially when it comes to key HCP decision-makers.
55.7% of active dermatologists are under the age of 55, and 44.3% are over 55 according to AAMC.
For example, if you’re marketing an EHR system for dermatologists, you’re likely going to be targeting practice owners. Unfortunately, “dermatology practice owner” is not a standard audience target in most marketing platforms. To reach this niche audience, you’ll need to use the tools available to reach “dermatologists” and then layer on specifics to make sure you’re targeting ideal prospects.
So, considering it takes 10 to 14 years to become a doctor (with most graduating around the age of 28) and that most docs work for a few years to save up money before opening a private practice, it’s fair to assume that you can limit your target audience to those 30 and above. Now take the economy into consideration and focus that age even further down to those older than 45, since Millennials were much more likely than previous generations to seek employment post-med school rather than open up their own practice.
For dermatology marketing, you likely won’t be narrowing your campaigns down to specific locations, since the resulting total addressable market will often be too small for most advertising platforms. However, depending on your product, you can use this information for highly specialized campaigns based on:
- Prevalence of Medicare, Medicaid, or specific private payers
- Enrollment dates for specific programs
- Completion deadlines based on various requirements
The South happens to have the highest population of dermatologists, with a huge concentration in Florida. Surprisingly, the Northeast and West are nearly equal, even though California alone has the highest number of dermatology providers of any state at 1.9k.
Gender is probably the least used classic demographic in our dermatology advertising campaigns. However, this is a common demographic piece of information used in traditional marketing and advertising, so if you’re working with a team that has a more traditional background, this may be something they want to know.
Dermatology Gender Breakdown
|Gender||Number of Dermatologists||% of Workforce|
A 2021 study looked at the gender gaps in dermatology and found the following:
- The percentage of female dermatologists in each state ranges from 18.4% to 62.2%
- Nearly 28% of U.S. counties with a dermatologist don’t have any female dermatologists
- Female dermatologists practice less in rural or highly uninsured counties
However, these numbers will see some significant changes over the next decade or two. While the current gender split is even, just 10 years ago 57% of dermatologists were men, revealing a stark trend. And, since women became the majority of overall medical school students in 2021, women will constitute a majority of the younger cohorts in dermatology moving forward.
As we mentioned, dermatologists are doctors, but they are people too. Understanding their personal circumstances can give you some insight into how they behave and what their top concerns within their practice or profession might be.
According to Medscape, while general happiness of dermatologists outside of work has decreased post-pandemic, this has been consistent across the entire healthcare industry. Comparatively, dermatologists are still the least burnt out and overall happiest compared to other specialties. Burnout among dermatologists was largely attributed to dealing with red tape:
On average, dermatologists earn $438k per year—a nearly 11% increase since 2021—and the demand for physicians continues to rise post-pandemic. Derm docs earn about 50k more per year than other physician specialties and have seen a 30% salary increase since 2015 as the cost of living and inflation has continued across the U.S. Overall, dermatologists feel fairly compensated. The biggest perceived threats to dermatologists include nonphysician practitioners, telemedicine, and minute clinics/big box stores.
Nearly 80% of dermatologists would still choose to enter the medical field, and 99% would specialize in dermatology again. This rate is slightly higher than physicians in general, of which only 73% would pick medicine again. This is due to various job satisfaction aspects:
Dermatology Targeting Criteria
While traditional demographic targeting alone won’t work for HCP marketing, layering those general targets with dermatology advertising specifics is the key to running a successful campaign. It’s these details that will help you target the right dermatology prospects without wasting precious advertising budget.
Practice setting is one of the most important slices within any HCP specialty. Do the physicians spend their time in a small office . . . or do they work in a giant hospital? Or some combination of settings? The vast majority of dermatologists still work in an independent medical office. Which almost certainly helps explain their relative happiness compared to other physicians. It also makes it easier to reach them.
In general, healthcare is trending toward more employed physicians versus practice owners, but dermatologists are still more likely than most to work in an independent or solo practice than a corporate or hospital setting.
Payment Models and Public Programs
Medicaid and Medicare Acceptance
Like any profession, dermatologists want to get paid. Their patients don’t (and often can’t) pay for many treatments out of pocket. The reimbursability of your product or solution could be a make-or-break component of getting the sale.
According to the latest Medscape Dermatologist Compensation Report, most dermatologists plan to continue taking Medicare and Medicaid patients.
These trends are overall consistent with the previous year’s findings. However, throughout the healthcare industry, some physicians have decided to opt out of accepting Medicare patients due to low reimbursements, and the issue is even worse with Medicaid. Other docs have cited an increase in billing issues with Medicaid as a reason for opting out.
Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)
An accountable care organization is “a group of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers who come together voluntarily to give coordinated high-quality care to their patients. The goal of coordinated care is to ensure that patients get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Dermatologists participate in these programs at about half the rate (28.6%) of other physicians (53.8%). However, this rate nearly doubled from 2015 to 2019.
MIPS vs. APMs
Another component to consider is dermatology participation in merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS) and alternative payment model (APM) programs.
Skills and Subspecialties
Dermatology only has a few subspecialties, but by layering skills and subspecialties into your targeting, you can reach even more specific prospects. For dermatology advertising, the main subspecialties and skills include:
- Pediatric dermatology
- Mohs surgery
- Cosmetic dermatology
While many healthcare facilities have additional hyper-specialized departments, dermatology consists of a few main subspecialties: dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology, Mohs surgery, and cosmetic dermatology.
Beyond the MDs
Keep in mind that doctors aren’t the only people making medical recommendations and interacting with patients, which means your marketing materials shouldn’t focus only on them.
To make an impact, it’s essential not to forget about addressing the team that surrounds the doctor every day. This includes the medical support staff, such as physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), and registered nurses (RNs). These team members all spend considerable time with patients, have some latitude in their work, have the ear of the doctor, and are often easier to reach than an MD or DO. There are two common nursing credentials that can be helpful in identifying derm-specific nurses:
- Dermatology Nurse Certified (DNC)
- Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner (DCNP)
This team also includes administrators or office managers who keep things running. These roles tend to have a ton of insight into finances and operations and can be a big influence in purchasing related solutions.
Various demand-side platforms (DSPs) offer programmatic advertising that allows you to target doctor specialties based on their prescribing behavior or CPT history. This can be very advantageous for targeting specific subsectors within dermatology.
Lookalike Audiences and Hashtags
Lookalike audiences and hashtags may be helpful in building out target audiences on social media because they can be used as tools to weed out consumers and find doctors. However, when it comes to HCPs, it’s important to take a critical look at who follows the various accounts/hashtags and the types of content they are promoting or associated with.
For example, there are quite a few dermatology associations for MDs and DOs to join, but their social media accounts target patients with tips on how to take care of their skin in the winter or how to self-identify melanoma. With some detailed investigation, we recommend building dermatology advertising based on audiences engaging with the following types of accounts:
- National and regional associations
- Medical school alumni associations
- Specialty journals and publications
With hashtags, it’s important to leverage medical language to avoid targeting patients. Some examples of hashtags we use to target dermatologists include:
Sound Like a Lot of Elements to Consider? Let Us Help.
Dermatology advertising is not easy. It takes a lot of expert knowledge and a nuanced understanding of how to make the platforms work for an audience they were not designed for. There’s a lot to consider, which is why we recommend partnering with a dermatology advertising expert, like glassCanopy.
We provide start-to-finish content and lead generation for organizations looking to launch dermatology advertising and marketing programs. We handle everything from strategy and content creation to campaign deployment and optimization.
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