Qualitative Research Increasing Throughout Dermatology

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The research method, which provides better context into patient and caregiver perspective on the field, has increased nearly two-fold in prevalence since 2020.

Qualitative research that which better helps contextualize health outcomes based on societal and demographic factors have become more prevalent in dermatology, according to a new scoping review from a team of dermatology investigators.1

The new assessment, led by Micah G. Pascual, BS, and Lucina L. Kohn, MD, MHS, of the department of dermatology at the University of Colorado Aurora School of Medicine, showed that nearly 1 in 5 dermatology research articles identified in their analysis included qualitative outcomes—and that a majority of said qualitative studies investigated the patient experience regarding the key topic.

The findings highlight an increasing interest to include patient perspective in dermatology—a specialty particularly burdened with assuring improved quality-of-life and comprehensive wellness for its patient populations.

Pascual, Kohn and colleagues conducted their review to accomplish both an assessment of the current approaches of qualitative investigation in dermatology, as well as to interpret qualitative trends and their impact and applicability on dermatology. At its most optimal use, qualitative research may help dermatologists and researchers in the field come into better understanding of individuals impacted by skin diseases based on their cultures and backgrounds.

“Qualitative research can elicit narratives from participants to capture the unique experiences of health care stakeholders (ie, patients, health care clinicians, and caregivers) that would otherwise remain hidden with quantitative investigation alone,” they noted.

Among the 6 common methodologies of qualitative research are content analysis, grounded theory; phenomenology, ethnography; discourse analysis; and case study. Each methodology provides a unique utility for researchers and goals for execution, as well as data collection methods—including interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and document analyses.

“However, to our knowledge, the extent to which researchers have conducted qualitative studies in dermatology is unknown,” investigators wrote.

The team conducted a scoping review of 2 medical research databases to identify dermatology qualitative studies. They excluded articles that which were published in a language other than English; involved mixed, quantitative, systematic review or meta-analysis methods; or were not specific to general, medical, pediatric, invasive, pathologic dermatology or education and training in the field.

Among the 1398 articles reviewed by the investigators, 249 (17.8%) were defined as qualitative dermatology studies. The most commonly observed methodologies were content analysis (n = 58 [23.3%]) and grounded theory (n = 35 [14.1%]). Case studies comprised only 5 (2.0%) of all qualitative studies.

The most prevalent data collection methods included individual interviews (n = 198 [79.5%]) and focus groups (n = 45 [18.1%]). Patients were the primary participants of qualitative studies (n = 174 [69.9%]), followed by health care team members (n = 68 [27.3%]). Sample sizes were primarily ≥21 participants (n = 127 [51.0%]).

The most prominent topics of the qualitative studies were patient experience (n = 137 [55.0%]), clinician experience (n = 30 [12.0%]), and skin care comprehension (n = 18 [8.8%]).

Investigators observed that 120 articles (48.2%) were published between 2020 – 2022, versus 98 (39.4%) published from 2010 – 2019 and just 29 (11.7%) from 2000 – 2009.

The team concluded that qualitative research is on the rise in dermatology, featuring topical focuses on quality-of-life instrument development and utility; clinician experience with disease treatment; consumer opinion on skin care productions and pharmacotherapeutic options; and perspective on policies regarding skin health care.

“As use of qualitative methods grows in dermatology research, it is increasingly important that dermatologists and researchers become familiar with these techniques,” they wrote. “Many universities offer in-person or online workshops detailing an introduction to qualitative research that typically span a few days to a week.”

Investigators expressed hope their research highlights the impact and benefit of qualitative research, as well as the increasing opportunities for said research for dermatologists.


  1. Pascual MG, Morris MA, Kohn LL. Publication Trends of Qualitative Research in Dermatology: A Scoping Review. JAMA Dermatol. Published online April 26, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2023.0839