After residency, you might go into solo practice or join a group practice or academic/hospital based dermatology practice.
You may find that you want to offer laser therapy to your patients, but aren’t sure where to start to find the best laser. In this article, I provide a few pearls on how to select which laser or light device to buy for your practice post residency.
First, wait and see what your clinical volume and flow is to determine the needs of your patient population. This might take a few months to one year. Lasers and light devices are often quite expensive and one device can be over the six-figure mark, so you want to proceed with caution to maximize utility of the device you purchase.
Once you’ve determined your patient population characteristics and practice type, then figure out what dermatologic skin diseases you’d like to treat and feel most comfortable treating.
Purchase based upon your needs and budget. If you are a general dermatologist and the mix of patients you care for includes patients with actinic keratoses, you might want to consider incorporating photodynamic therapy into your practice. If you have a significant amount of patients with psoriasis, or happen to specialize in vitiligo therapy, you might want to consider an excimer laser. If you are at an academic medical center and treat patients with scleroderma and chronic graft versus host disease, you might want to consider adding a UVA1 phototherapy unit.
If you find that a significant number of your patients have vascular lesions that need therapy, consider adding a laser (KTP, PDL, or NdYAG) or intense pulsed light (IPL) device to treat these patients. The benefit of adding an IPL is that you can treat larger areas and remove hair with different filters. IPLs are typically best for treating patients with Fitzpatrick skin types I, II and III, as burning and hyperpigmentation may occur in darker skin and tan patients. If you are caring for patients with aesthetic needs, consider what those needs are and whether you have the training to utilize the laser and deal with potential complications, then go from there.
For facial rejuvenation, the two main categories include non-ablative and ablative lasers, and these vary with post-procedure patient downtime. For tattoo removal, q-switched laser systems are available on the market, which are standard care for this type of procedure.
Once you’ve determined the class of laser you’d like to purchase based upon your patient population needs, you need to work towards finding the right device. My pearl here is to attend conferences, walk the floors and meet with the various vendors; do your research before attending the conference, and perhaps set up meetings in advance. Sometimes the best pricing for a laser can be obtained at the conference. Consider attending the talks sponsored by the company at the trade shows. Speak with the presenters after their talk one-on-one to get their input on the laser. You might want to follow up by attending company-sponsored webinars. This allows you to interact with the company and physician presenter in a different manner by asking questions virtually in an online classroom-type setting. It will also help you to narrow your focus to one or two devices in the category you are interested in.
Finally, get the laser device in for a demo.
The company should be happy to bring the laser to you and allow you to try it for a period of time. Many companies will allow you to borrow it for a day of even weeks. By utilizing the device with your patients you will see how it performs and can assess your comfort level with it prior to purchase.