Dermatologist-Led Model for CVD Prevention in Psoriasis May Be Feasible, Survey Results Suggest

Christine Kilgore

February 01, 2022

A dermatologist-led model of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk management for patients with psoriatic disease – in which dermatologists do more than refer patients to a primary care physician (PCP) or a cardiologist – may be feasible, given the positive perspectives expressed by both clinicians and patients in a set of electronic surveys, researchers say.

Dr John Barbieri

In an analysis of survey responses from 183 dermatologists and 322 patients, John S. Barbieri, MD, MBA, and coinvestigators found that more than two-thirds of dermatologists (69.3%) agreed it "seems doable" to check lipids and calculate a 10-year cardiovascular risk score, and over one-third (36.1%) agreed they could prescribe statins when indicated.

The patient survey was distributed through the National Psoriasis Foundation to individuals who were seeing a dermatologist or rheumatologist for psoriatic disease; the clinician survey was distributed through the American Academy of Dermatology to dermatologists who reported caring for patients with psoriasis. (A survey of rheumatologists was similarly conducted, but the number of participants fell short of the needed sample size.)

Most patients surveyed indicated they would be receptive to their dermatologist (or rheumatologist) playing a larger role in screening and managing CVD risk, and that they would be similarly likely to follow recommendations regarding risk screening and management whether the advice came their dermatologist/rheumatologist or from their PCP.

The clinician survey focused on lipids and statin use, and did not address other elements of risk management. Still, the researchers see their findings as an early but promising step in finding better models to improve cardiovascular outcomes for patients with psoriatic disease, who too often do not engage with their PCPs despite their increased risk of CVD and a higher risk of premature mortality from CVD.

Fewer than half of commercially insured adults aged under 65 years visit a PCP each year, the researchers noted. And among the patients in their survey, approximately 20% did not have a PCP or had not seen their PCP in the past year.

Other research has shown that only a small minority of patients with psoriasis have an encounter with their PCP within a year of establishing care with their dermatologist, and that "over half of patients with psoriasis have undetected risk factors like dyslipidemia or hypertension," Barbieri, of the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, said in an interview.

"There's a gap here, a missing link in the chain of cardiovascular disease prevention," he said. "What if the dermatologist or rheumatologist could be more engaged in [CV] risk protection? ... It's the idea of meeting the patients where they are."

The Surveys

The clinician survey focused on statins because of their ease of use, efficacy and safety, and the need for minimal monitoring, Barbieri said in an interview. "On the spectrum of things you can do for cardiovascular disease prevention, it's one of the easiest ones."

Dr Michael Garshick

In an accompanying editorial, cardiologists Michael S. Garshick, MD, MS, and Jeffrey S. Berger, MD, MS, both of the department of medicine, New York University, wrote that, "despite the well-described association between psoriasis and CVD, only 35% of patients with psoriasis diagnosed with hyperlipidemia are adequately treated with statin therapy."

Dr Jeffrey Berger

"For many of these patients, their dermatologist or rheumatologist may be their only source of contact with the health care system," they added.

Most studies targeting CVD risk in psoriasis have focused on targeting psoriatic inflammation, and few studies have explored strategies to improve modifiable CVD risk factor control with pharmacological therapy, they said.

In addition to the questions about receptiveness to identifying and potentially treating CVD risk with statins, the dermatologist survey included a best-worst scaling choice experiment to assess preferences for implementation approaches. Dermatologists were asked to rank their preferences for eight implementation strategies that have been shown in published studies to help increase statin prescribing rates.

The three highest-ranked strategies among dermatologists were clinical decision support, physician educational outreach, and patient education materials. The lowest-ranked strategies were comparisons with peers, a pay-for-performance option, and a mobile app/texting service to remind patients to undergo CVD risk screening.

Of the 183 dermatologists in the survey, 28.4% were from academic settings, 11.5% were from multispecialty groups, and 45.4% were from dermatology groups. (A low response rate of 5.2% for dermatologists raises some questions about the generalizability of the findings, Garshick and Berger noted in their editorial.)

Where to Go From Here?

Asked to comment on the results, Jashin J. Wu, MD, founder and CEO of the Dermatology Research and Education Foundation, Irvine, Calif., who was not involved with the study, said that a larger role in CVD risk management is "not likely to find traction with everyday dermatologists."

"It's already a big ask for community dermatologists to go through the approval process to get biologics for patients, so I don't think many would be willing to add more to their plate by taking a bigger role in CVD management," he said in an interview. He generally has not prescribed statins, "as I don't feel that is in my scope of work."

In an interview, Barbieri said that a parallel qualitative study, not yet published, has looked at the facilitators and barriers – including time constraints and concern about scope of practice – to statin prescribing and other elements of cardiovascular risk reduction.

All told, he said, a centralized care coordinator model may be the best approach to engage the dermatologist more in CVD prevention, including lipid management, but to also "offload some of the management responsibility."

In this model, which is partially described by Barbieri and colleagues, the dermatologist (or rheumatologist) would educate the patient, measure blood pressure and check a lipid panel, and refer the patient to a coordinator who would, in turn, collect more information and calculate a 10-year CVD risk score.

Using a protocol-driven clinical decision support approach, the care coordinator would provide counseling about diet, exercise, and smoking cessation, and about whether statin therapy or blood pressure management is indicated.

"That coordinator would be in a good position to help the patient work with their PCP, if they have one, to find a PCP if they don't, or to use telemedicine or work with their dermatologist or rheumatologist," Barbieri said.

The centralized care coordinator service could be funded through grants, charitable funds, and patient assistance funds so that it is free to patients, he said, and could possibly be "housed in the National Psoriasis Foundation."

Barbieri said he and his colleagues plan to design a clinical trial to test whether such a model can be adopted in practice and whether it can improve outcomes associated with CVD risk management.

In their editorial, Garshick and Berger, who is director of NYU Langone's Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, wrote that many patients with psoriatic disease have or are at risk for cardiometabolic conditions, and that CVD risk reduction should extend beyond lipid management to include blood pressure, glucose lowering, obesity management, and antiplatelet therapy.

The joint AAD-NPF guidelines for the management and treatment of psoriasis with awareness and attention to comorbidities, published in 2019, were among the first to formally recognize the enhanced CVD risk of patients with psoriasis, they noted.

The guidelines call upon dermatologists to inform patients of the psoriasis-CVD association and ensure their patients are engaged with their PCP or cardiologist for appropriate screening. Now, the editorialists say, "moving the needle forward includes refining and developing modifiable CVD risk reduction strategies for patients with psoriasis, and collaboration between the fields of dermatology, rheumatology, and cardiology is key."

Incorporating a preventive cardiologist into combined dermatology-rheumatology clinics, or partnering as a freestanding cardioinflammatory clinic, also have potential to improve CVD risk, they wrote.

The survey study was supported by a grant from the NPF Psoriasis Prevention Initiative. Barbieri reported no conflicts of interest. Several authors disclosed consulting fees and grants from numerous pharmaceutical companies. Berger reported receiving personal fees from Janssen and grants from AstraZeneca outside of the submitted work. Garshick reported receiving personal fees from AbbVie outside of the submitted work.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.