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Patient Perspective: I Am More Than My Atopic Dermatitis

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Jennifer Etienne shared her experiences during the shared decision-making patient panel of the 2023 Revolutionizing Atopic Dermatitis Virtual Conference.

Monkey Business/AdobeStock

Monkey Business/AdobeStock

One of the key focuses of the 2023 Revolutionizing Atopic Dermatitis (RAD) Virtual Conference, held December 23, 2023, was the importance of shared decision-making between patients and dermatology clinicians. To better understand the patient’s perspective, the National Eczema Association hosted an atopic dermatitis (AD) panel featuring 4 patients who have received an AD diagnosis or who have cared for someone who has.

Panelist Jennifer Etienne was diagnosed with AD when she was 8 years old and is currently still managing her AD signs and symptoms. Etienne strongly advocates for patients and clinicians to work together toward common goals and outcomes, rather than patients with AD feeling that they are left out of the education behind the decision-making process.

Etienne shared with Dermatology Times her AD journey in an exclusive interview.

“My AD treatment journey began at 8 years old when I was diagnosed with atopic dermatitis. I was prescribed topical steroids such as triamcinolone to help me manage my skin condition.

Up until high school, my AD was manageable, but it went from mild to severe within a matter of months. Around this time, nothing seemed to work. I eventually was prescribed methylprednisone but I didn't see a major difference. I ended up going through topical steroid withdrawal and my skin cleared but currently, my skin is back at the same severity it was in high school even though I haven't used any steroids in 9 years.

As an AD patient, what I believe that dermatologists should keep in mind with patient communication is that we’re human. Although I'm diagnosed with a condition, that doesn't mean that's all I am. I'm a person who has AD. So, when patients come to an appointment about their condition, checking in with the person first can make them feel seen. We’re more than our diagnosis, and if dermatologists could take the time to listen and empathize with their patients, it would lead to better communication, thus making the patient more open to different treatment options that might be out there.

It could also lead to the patient being calmer when they come into the appointment and not feeling like they have to rush through speaking. Patients need someone they can slow down with. To me, a dermatologist specializes in the skin, so I look to them as a reliable source, but if the one person who is knowledgeable in this area is being dismissive, it can leave the patient feeling more hopeless than they were before,” shared Etienne.

During the RAD patient panel, Etienne also shared that she feels the most comfortable when treatment considerations and education are shared over multiple, shorter visits rather than one potentially overwhelming visit. All the panelists agreed that an initial visit can often be anxiety-inducing and that having a clinician who understands their concerns and their desire to learn more about their AD has a significant impact on trust and communication.

Share your strategy for a shared decision-making process by emailing DTEditor@mmhgroup.com

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