Quality of care in medicine has become an increasingly important issue as the nature of healthcare delivery has changed. Many managed care systems rely on the primary care physician to serve as a gatekeeper, thereby limiting access to specialist care. Controversy has arisen regarding the abilities of primary care physicians in one such specialty: dermatology. We reviewed the many studies conducted in the United States evaluating primary care physicians' abilities in dermatology. Despite inherent flaws in many of the studies, one can conclude that primary care providers are inferior to dermatologists in the diagnosis and treatment of skin disease. Whether these process-based data predict outcome is not known.