May 3, 2023 | Dermatology Practice, Press Release
SALT LAKE CITY—May 1, 2023—PathologyWatch, a full-service digital dermatopathology solution, is recognizing May as Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month with a public awareness campaign of its own.
Many Americans are likely unaware of just how prevalent skin cancer is in the US. In conjunction with Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the Skin Cancer Foundation has released some sobering statistics about the disease:
- With over 5 million cases detected each year in the US, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.
- More than two people die from skin cancer every hour in the US.
- More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the US than all other cancers combined.
- An estimated 7,990 people will die from melanoma in 2023 (5,420 men and 2,570 women).
- An estimated 186,680 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2023.
- One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
“One other key statistic is that the five-year survival rate for melanoma, when it is detected early, is 99 percent,” said Dan Lambert, CEO of PathologyWatch. “That’s why, during the month of May and beyond, we are encouraging everyone to visit their physician or dermatologist and receive an examination. Our mission at PathologyWatch is to preserve and extend life for patients while reducing the cost of healthcare. Early detection is one way we’re working to achieve that goal.”
PathologyWatch uses cutting-edge technology to connect dermatologists with academic-level dermatopathologists in a workflow utilizing samples shared via digital slides. The full-system digital workflow not only optimizes efficiency but also saves physician time, reduces the burden on office staff, and can help clinics create previously untapped revenue streams.
The Utah-based company will be providing “Show Me Some Skin” T-shirts to dermatologists and dermatopathologists who participate in the upbeat awareness campaign. Dermatologists and dermpaths can receive their free T-shirt by simply registering to join the campaign.
“We feel this is a fun way for dermatologists to help get the word out this month about a serious health issue,” Lambert said. “The most important thing in the fight against skin cancer is for people to take the initiative to get tested. May offers the perfect opportunity to commit to that first step.”
PathologyWatch is the groundbreaking leader of digital dermatopathology services. Through these services, dermatology clinics, hospitals and laboratories can improve operational efficiency by speeding up workflow and enhancing patient outcomes by utilizing the PathologyWatch expert professional team and laboratory services. This can facilitate best-in-class reads and, in some cases, enable additional revenue to the practice by in-housing pathology. With an intuitive and easy-to-implement digital pathology solution that includes access to top-tier dermatopathologists and a streamlined clinical workflow that interfaces directly into the EMR, PathologyWatch brilliantly combines state-of-the-art technology and clinical decision-making to deliver unprecedented patient care.
Apr 24, 2023 | Dermatology Practice, Digital Dermatopathology, Pathology Business
By April Larson, MD
Thirteen is shaping up to be a very fortunate number for digital pathologists in 2023. Thanks largely to the efforts of the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the American Medical Association CPT Editorial Board developed 13 new Category III digital pathology digitization procedure codes. The 13 new add-on CPT codes, which have been introduced to record the use of digital pathology, went into effect on January 1.
Prior to 2023, lab reports in the US used the same CPT (current procedural terminology) codes in reporting any diagnostic read—with no distinction made as to whether the diagnosis utilized digital pathology or a glass slide under a microscope. Thus, both procedures earned the same reimbursement rates.
The new CPT codes will help track the additional work and investment of digital pathology into practice and help establish a new standard of care by demonstrating its wider acceptance and usage by the medical community, which in turn is a big step in receiving reimbursement for those services. This will continue to push the medical industry toward the adoption of digital pathology, increasing the availability of remote pathology work for pathologists.
Let’s look at the difference between Category I and the new Category III CPT codes and how they could lead to reimbursement rates for those practices utilizing digital pathology.
The Difference Between CPT Codes
The 13 new Category III codes are designed to be temporary in nature. They’re intended for emerging technology, services, and procedures and allow for the data collection directly associated with carrying them out. The goal is to show that these procedures are becoming more commonly adopted so that pathologists can then work with the AMA to shift these codes to Category I status.
I believe the use of these new CPT codes is a helpful measure that the government can use to determine whether new technology—in this case, digital pathology and the use of AI prognostics— is actually advancing the standard of care.
How do Category III codes differ from Category I codes? According to CAP, the new Category III codes may not meet one or more of the following Category I requirements:
- All devices and drugs necessary for the performance of the procedure or service have received FDA clearance or approval when such is required for the performance of the procedure or service.
- The procedure or service is performed by many physicians or other qualified health care professionals across the United States.
- The procedure or service is performed with a frequency consistent with the intended clinical use (e.g., a service for a common condition should have high volume, whereas a service commonly performed for a rare condition may have low volume).
- The procedure or service is consistent with current medical practice.
- The clinical efficacy of the procedure or service is documented in literature that meets the requirements set forth in the CPT code change application.
Category III codes should be reported only for primary diagnostic use; they should not be reported if the digitization performed is solely for archival or educational purposes, developing a database for training or validation of AI algorithms, or for conference presentations.
The 13 new codes are attached to different services and procedures, but the one thing they all have in common is involving the digitization of glass slides.
The use of these codes is exciting both for dermatologists and dermatopathologists. What we’ve seen at PathologyWatch is that dermatopathologists can benefit from remote digital workflows, and dermatologists have quicker access to both digital slides and reports.
Reclassification to Category I codes, which is the goal, requires meeting both general and specific criteria as determined by the AMA.
Potential Game-Changer for Pathologists
While temporary in nature, the 13 new codes have the potential to be revolutionary for digital pathologists for a variety of reasons. Of primary merit is that the codes are widely expected to achieve Category I status in the near future, opening the door to new financial reimbursements.
Clearly, there are significant upfront expenses associated with digital pathology. The initial technology investment, for example, can seem formidable, with scanners running anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million.
While it is important to note that there are presently no reimbursements directly tied to the new CPT III codes, the change is laying the groundwork by bringing a different dynamic into play.
The utilization of CPT codes helps establish the frequency of usage within the medical community. In order to determine reimbursement, this is often determined by committees of experts who help document the financial investment required to use a new technology.
Much like radiology, the wide adoption of digital pathology will help improve the quality of patient care by promoting sharing of information and images with consulting providers, which improves communication and coordination of care. It also promotes more frequent peer-to-peer and expert consultation with difficult cases and patient education and understanding of their disease.
Reimbursement also provides a financial incentive for clinics and labs to invest further in digital pathology. CAP proposals are being considered for development in the next few years through the AMA CPT process. In the meantime, it is important for dermatologists and dermatopathologists to use the new Category III codes to properly track their digital pathology services.
View a chart with the new CPT codes and detailed explanations of what they entail at cap.org. Then, contact us to learn more about how these new codes, and the adoption of digital pathology, could greatly improve your level of patient care and your practice in general.
— April Larson, MD, is chief medical officer and a cofounder at PathologyWatch.
Mar 16, 2022 | Dermatology Practice, Uncategorized
By Darren Whittemore, DO
To increase revenue and expand your patient base, you may have tried engaging with people on social media, advertising special service packages, or even parking a dancing balloon guy on the curb by your derm practice to drum up business. Nothing seems to work.
Serious change requires serious strategies. By tracking changes in billing and health insurance requirements and offering your resources and expertise to support pharmaceutical companies as they use technology to gather research data, you can uncover additional ways to help your practice grow. So give the dancing balloon guy the day off, and let’s explore four hidden revenue-building opportunities that can help point your derm practice in the right direction.
Outsource Medical Billing
Unless your accounts team has expertise in ever-changing CPT codes, AFA policies, and other Medicare, value-based care reimbursement guidelines, outsourcing medical billing is a popular and cost-effective option. Around 90 percent of healthcare leaders have considered outsourcing in both clinical and nonclinical functions to be more cost-efficient and better equipped to handle value-based care models. And here’s why:
A recent survey by Harmony Healthcare found that 33 percent of hospital executives reported the average claims denial rate hovering around 10 percent. In fact, across the nation, hospitals face average denial rates between 6 and 13 percent. When rejections occur, you need an experienced team that can respond quickly and are better equipped to handle changing requirements for medical reimbursements.
For example, board-certified dermatologist Dina Strachan, M.D., at Aglow Dermatology in New York, notes that every step needed to collect money from both patients and insurance comes with a cost attached. There is a huge time factor involved in understanding the fine print of the myriad high-deductible plans, and a lot of time is tied up in collecting and processing bills. By outsourcing billing, and placing a link on her website where payments can be made, a lot of time is recaptured.
“We don’t have to spend time opening and sorting mail, punching in, and processing credit card payments—it’s a time savings,” she said.
Apply to Host a Clinical Trial
Emerging cloud technologies are helping pharmaceutical companies tap into innovative alternatives for collecting rich, segmented research data. ClinicalTrials.gov currently lists 404,694 studies with locations in all 50 States and in 220 countries.
With in-person testing sites no longer being the only option for research, pharma can use both virtual and hybrid models to collect data.
Depending on the length of the study and the interaction levels required by the clinical trial directors, pharmaceutical companies will often pay clinics willing to dedicate their time and resources to help facilitate a relevant clinical trial.
Along with the revenue potential, most healthcare providers enjoy the option to provide their patients with the most recent treatments available, particularly in skin cancer and other chronic cases. According to the Dermatology Learning Network, interviews with dermatologists that have participated in clinical research show they can be professionally, intellectually, and financially rewarding.
“It allows you to give your patients cutting-edge treatment at a severely discounted price or for free,” said Dr. Mitchel Goldman, medical director of La Jolla Spa MD, in La Jolla, California.
In addition to the excitement of being involved in the development of new products and offering patients new treatment options, Steven R. Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, noted the potential financial benefit to practices as well.
“In an era where managed care is paying less for each office visit, you can charge your usual office rate,” Feldman said in reference to patients enrolled in trials.
Reexamine Health Insurance Partnerships
Over the past 20 years, health insurance companies have consolidated to cut costs, meet higher demands, and, in some cases, move toward the government and individual health insurance markets under the Affordable Healthcare Act. This transition has given health insurance companies an advantage over physicians.
“Most dermatology practices lack the scale to negotiate with large health insurance companies on an even playing field,” Todd Petersen, CEO of Vitalskin Dermatology, explains. “These terms set year-over-year reimbursement rates and allow the insurance company to set billing, coding and utilization management rules. Consequently, nominal year-over-year increases can be largely offset by increased denial rates and tighter billing and coding rules.”
Although dermatology costs aren’t a high price point for health insurance carriers (accounting for less than 2 percent of medical costs), Petersen points out that pharmaceutical spending for dermatology-related drugs, such as psoriasis-related treatments, accounts for 6.5 percent of total spending with signs of future increases.
“For dermatology practices with market share and a large psoriasis patient population, using this strategy at the negotiating table may prove beneficial and provide the practice with improved revenues,” he says.
Invest in EMR Technology
Moving to digital-based technology, such as EMR or EHR, creates more efficient and profitable processes in a few ways:
- Participates in the Medicare Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)
Values-based care and reimbursements are growing and allow for additional revenue streams. EMR technology is required for billing compliance and patient dashboard access and to collect data and submit electronic data to CMS. According to Petersen, the initial investment cost of EHR technology will pay itself off down the road. “When considering whether to make the investment of complying with MIPS, consider the following: value-based reimbursement is not going away, and many practices have found the implementation of EHRs has helped them improve their billing compliance,” he writes.
- Enables faster turnaround times for lab test results
For Allen-Taintor Dermatology, not only did partnering with a lab that specializes in digital dermatopathology provide a faster turnaround time for lab results (turnaround time is now 75 percent faster, with results often received within two days of submission), but it also enabled their dermatologists to use a digital slide to encourage a conversation about the patient’s biopsy results and possible cancer care. As faster turnaround time increases the speed of business, more patients can flow through the practice with increased revenue as a result.
- Expands access to care
Digital-based patient files mean doctors aren’t limited by location to reach out for expertise on a patient’s case. With digital technology, a specialist in Boston or Switzerland can securely review a patient file and discuss a diagnosis in real time with the dermatologist. That leads to quicker results and prompt patient care, which again improves revenue.
With the dermatology field expected to grow by almost 11.4 percent by 2026, dermatologists can leverage revenue-building strategies by reducing overhead costs through outsourced billing services, research reimbursement rates with health insurance and government health program partnerships, participate in clinical trials, and expand digital patient care services. By tapping into these revenue outlets, you can help to prepare your derm practice for a future of growth.
Jan 27, 2022 | Dermatology Practice
By Eva Vertes George, MD
If you’ve toyed with the idea of starting your own dermatology clinic, you are not alone. In an industry worth almost $8.5 trillion with marked growth exceeding $800 billion by 2021, approximately 31.4 percent of physicians are independent practice owners.
Innovations in healthcare technology will likely trigger a new batch of medical startups utilizing emerging digital technologies to fill the growing need for dermatological care. The problem is that physicians have spent the majority of their time learning how to serve patients as dermatologists, not how to run businesses. That lack of business savvy may prevent many talented healthcare professionals from going into business for themselves.
Experts estimate over 5,000 dermatology businesses operate in the US, with indicators showing a consistent 1 percent growth in the dermatology industry since 2020. Cost, culture, and the customer determine whether a new practice is dialed in for future success as a solo practice or as part of a group practice.
Based on these factors, let’s discuss the advantages of (and a few of the possible deterrents to) joining an existing dermatology group practice based on cost, culture, and the targeted customer base.
Estimating the total cost to open and maintain a new clinic is likely the biggest obstacle for dermatologists planning to take the next step toward ownership. When you consider overhead costs associated with property, lab equipment, staff, marketing, and billing software, it’s no wonder that new clinic owners often underestimate the amount of money it takes to keep the doors open.
Because it often takes at least two years to turn a profit, Jerome Obed, DO of Broward Dermatology and Cosmetic Specialists in Florida, recommends having at least two years’ worth of money to live on when first opening a private dermatology practice.
If cash flow isn’t reliable, joining an existing practice is a strategic option. This is mainly because access to an active revenue stream, insurance credentials, and a robust client base is immediate. Another advantage of joining an existing practice is that you don’t have to put limited funds toward marketing, nor do you need business experience.
A trusting patient relationship needs a positive work culture to thrive. “Positive work culture will always support the healthcare professional-patient relationship. It will build patient trust and gain confidence among staff who provide patient care,” an NIH report concludes. “It will allow them to feel that other than the goal of working to cure their diseases, they receive care.”
The NIH study found that when patients see doctors and nurses who are satisfied in doing their work and providing services, it encourages patients to follow instructions. “When they feel teamwork is active among staff and stable leadership exists from their managers, these patients may be more than willing to allow themselves to seek medical advice and treatment.”
The advantages of joining an existing dermatology group practice have a considerable impact on your success. But the ease of stepping into an established practice can also interfere with the long-term benefits. For instance, joining an established practice means someone else decides who you will treat, the billing software you will use, and the length of your appointments.
By comparison, when you open your practice—and on the condition that your financing is secure—you have more control over your patient volume. You’re also in charge of your office hours, appointment times, services, billing, and lab partnerships.
In a group practice, the bottom line is the main focus. It’s part of the motivation to maintain a fast pace and see as many patients as possible. It can also mean a lower pay rate for you. It’s no wonder almost half (42 percent) of physicians experience burnout. And that’s something to be mindful of when making long-term business decisions.
It’s important to establish the type of patient care you want to offer. Those decisions can help you prioritize resources, possible clinic locations, and equipment purchases. For example, does your area report high incidences of skin cancers? How many dermatology clinics presently specialize in the services you hope to promote? One phone call can help you establish the wait time for new patients. Addressing these questions can guide your professional goals for your patients. But there are other factors to consider.
Your customer base includes more than your patients: It includes billing partners, insurance companies, lab partnerships, marketing firms, other healthcare providers, and more. When you own your clinic, you get to select and nurture those valued relationships.
Strategic partnerships, such as your dermpath lab, can help streamline your workflow process and reduce overhead costs. For example, working with a lab with expertise in digital pathology means you don’t need to invest in expensive lab and testing equipment. Partnering with a lab that integrates with your EMR technology and offers locum tenens services may open up new opportunities to expand your services without investing in an expanded staff.
By working with innovative, digital-based companies like PathologyWatch, it’s easier to see the possibilities of opening your own practice.
The healthcare industry will show plenty of opportunities for dermatology services in 2022. Choosing the best way to promote your expertise with optimal patient care can be a rewarding next step in your career. Improve your chances of long-term success by weighing the pros and cons of a group practice versus starting your own dermatology clinic (your financial strength, work culture, and customer relationships) and chart your new path forward.
Nov 18, 2021 | Dermatology Practice
In some ways, it took a pandemic for the healthcare industry to accelerate new ways to deliver patient care. For example, a CDC study found that using telehealth for patient visits increased by up to 154 percent from 2019 to 2020. Now, this service is a permanent option for some major healthcare organizations, and it’s just one example of how dermatological interoperability is helping providers to move closer to incorporating technology with traditional patient care.
A recent study determined that effective interoperability and communication are essential for a primary care system to successfully prevent illness, manage care across multiple providers, and reduce health care costs.
“To address patients’ needs, primary care physicians often must communicate and exchange information with specialists, hospitals and other care settings, social service providers—and, of course, the patients themselves,” says Muhammad Chebli of NextGen Healthcare.
But what is dermatological interoperability? If it’s the future of healthcare, how can we incorporate this technology in ways that help your practice run more efficiently and grow? Let’s first gain a better understanding of interoperability. Then, we’ll explore how interoperability can scale our practice with innovation that better organizes data, expands patient care options, and streamlines billing.
What Is Interoperability?
For doctors who have already adopted EMR technology, you are closer than you think to full interoperability. “EMR interoperability is a system architecture that allows healthcare facilities to access, analyze, and share health data between systems, medical devices, and applications at a local or cross-organizational level,” explains Ivan Dunskiey, Demigos Healthcare founder and CEO.
Almost 90 percent of healthcare providers have implemented EMR technology into their workflow processes. As dermatologists work with EMR technology, here are six ways EMR can work for them.
1. Ensures Compliance
Under the federal government’s direction, the healthcare industry is placing patients at the center of their care and medical information. Part of the 21st Century Cures Act entitles all patients to access their complete medical file upon request.
In other words, providers must digitize their patient records so that patients can access their information. As patients take a more active role in their care, doctors can use these opportunities to develop open, trusting patient relationships.
2. Standardizes Data
Is it a rash? Psoriasis? A lesion?
It’s not uncommon for patients to be treated by more than one doctor at a time. With hard-copy record keeping, a healthcare provider may use different terms to describe the same thing. Using EMR interoperability standardizes those terms, which creates more accurate, reliable patient data.
Also, with standardized data, other health service agencies can collect and analyze data about a specific skin condition, for instance, and note higher incidences of that particular disease in specific geographic regions. That, in turn, can launch discussions on the risks and determine if an area needs more resources.
3. Expands Access to Services
Telehealth services and self-service patient portals are promising indicators of the evolution of care delivery options with interoperability. For the dermatology field, EMR and digital slides sometimes open up life-saving treatment options for malignancy cases. Regardless of clinic size and location, doctors can obtain expert opinions on dermatology cases and discuss results via remote.
4. Allows Access to a Complete Patient Medical Record
The more information a healthcare provider has, the better the diagnosis. Since patients only remember about 49 percent of the information they receive from their doctors, medical professionals must rely on thorough medical records. With digitized patient records, a healthcare provider not only sees their notes, but they can also read through the notes shared by other doctors.
When determining treatment options, a healthcare provider can refer to reported lifestyle habits or existing conditions being treated by another physician that could interfere with certain treatment plans. Accessing a complete patient record ensures effective care that won’t interfere with other treatments, medications, etc.
5. Faster Billing
There are several reasons why digital patient records streamline the billing process. “Technology has enabled a huge transition in streamlining medical records storage and processing,” explains Greg Dondero, business development director at Healthcare Resource Group, Inc. “Electronic recordkeeping helps ensure that patient data is accurate, up to date, and easily accessible. It allows secure sharing of information with patients, providers and other healthcare workers, which ultimately reduces costs because of reduced manual paperwork.”
6. Saves Time
At this very moment, a collective “hah!” resounds from doctors who recently implemented a new EMR system. In fact, one of the most common complaints among doctors is how much time it takes to update patient records. One study estimates that surgeons, for example, spend almost two hours per day updating electronic health records. And they often update patient files at home in their spare time.
As EMR technology evolves (and it will, as more doctors weigh in with feedback), so should your workflow design. For example, how do you handle patient check-ins? Can the patient verify insurance and contact information through a self-service portal before their appointment? Are there redundant tasks within your office workflow that can be automated? Can you schedule time each day for communication tasks or file updates? Partnering with a full-service digital dermpath lab like PathologyWatch can fast track your workflow WITH technology to help you save time and make it easier to scale your practice in conjunction with these innovations.
No doubt about it: Interoperability is the future of EHR and EMR systems. A better understanding of the possibilities dermatological interoperability can bring to your patient care, billing, and data management is transformative for the future of your practice.
Oct 29, 2021 | Dermatology Practice, Digital Pathology
With emerging technologies promoting self-service portals to access medical information and other self-care practices, it seems the healthcare industry hopes to empower people to take control of their healthcare decisions and care. But that doesn’t necessarily mean patients must take the trip down the treatment lane alone.
“So much of our lives are now assisted virtually, and on-demand, that going to the doctor when we’re sick feels like stepping back in time,” says Katelyn Smalley, adding that digital health is a welcome addition to healthcare. However, she also emphasizes the need for balance between technology and building an honest personal relationship with your healthcare provider.
In the dermatological field, technology is a strategic tool for reducing turnaround times for test results, controlling overhead costs for clinics, and expanding access to care. It also reinforces the SHARE approach to decision-making in clinical encounters.
If you’ve incorporated the SHARE model approach to bolster the patient experience with shared medical decisions, today’s digital technology is a natural fit for encouraging participation, assessing the diagnosis, and discussing the most preferred options. Here’s why:
SEEK your patient’s participation.
Emerging patient-centered technologies broaden patient involvement in their treatment plans, and it reflects in how patients communicate with their healthcare provider. For instance, recent studies found that over half (51 percent) of consumers are likely to tell their doctors that they disagree with them.
The onset of the 21st Century Cures Act and EMR technology equipped with custom self-service portals provide patients with essential information about their medical history. Access to this data drives patient involvement and prepares them for an in-depth discussion about their diagnosis and how to move forward. Essentially, the doctor needn’t lead the patient into a discussion about their diagnosis; the patient is already engaged.
HELP your patient explore and compare treatment options.
To make informed decisions about treatment options, seeing is believing. When patients can see the actual diagnosis while discussing their condition with a doctor, it bolsters better doctor-patient communication.
When offered, 75 percent of patients will engage in a consultation geared to demystify the diagnostic process and provide information that empowers the patient. Partnering with a full-service digital dermatopathology lab like PathologyWatch enables 24/7 access to patient slides to add a new level of clarity to the discussion.
ASSESS your patient’s values and preferences.
In some cases, particularly those associated with malignancy, reaching out to a specialist via remote consultation may also bolster the patient’s confidence in their doctor and encourage collaboration in treatment preferences.
With digital slide imaging as part of the patient/provider consultation, your patient can express concerns, ask questions, and consider options while they see and hear from both doctors sharing encouraging and qualified support while addressing the patient’s preferences.
REACH a decision with your patient.
A study out of the University of Washington School of Medicine found that almost all of us (90 percent) want to know the whole truth about the diagnosis of a serious illness. When you’ve created a comfortable, trusting environment to discuss a patient’s condition, it makes it easier for them to ask more questions about the risks of treatment options based on the digital slides of their lab results.
EVALUATE your patient’s decision.
Many health conditions don’t have a clear best treatment option, so finding the right answer often requires the doctor and patient to work together. “Shared decision-making allows patients to engage in a deliberative, communicative process with their clinicians and be active participants in their care,” says Angie Fagerlin, chair of the department of population health sciences at the University of Utah and president of the Society for Medical Decision Making, explained.
Experts agree that engaging in shared medical decisions leads to better patient outcomes, more effective treatments, and lower costs. And patients who engage in health care decisions with their doctor “are less likely to regret the choices they make and more likely to stick to the treatment regimens they select,” adds Laura Landro of the Wall Street Journal.
Using the SHARE model for medical decision-making remains a strategic way to engage with patients about their care. Adding digital technology reinforces that relationship by providing patients with a broader perspective of their care and treatment options.