Across America, healthcare industry professionals play pivotal and often pressure-filled roles in keeping individuals and communities safe. However, this commitment to service comes with a toll in the form of heavy turnover rates. One two-year study found that family practices experienced an average turnover rate of 53 percent. Now is the time to ensure you’re running a motivated and efficient dermatology clinic staff.
While tending to patients is every dermatologist’s most critical concern, maintaining a productive and satisfied staff isn’t too far behind. By increasing your team’s high-level patient contact, sharpening your staff-retention efforts, and making sure you hire qualified individuals, your practice can continue to administer the level of care your patients have come to expect.
High-Level Patient Contact
Expanding individual responsibilities can improve staff morale while helping to reduce your workload. Since medical assistants represent the biggest group of individuals providing clinical support to dermatologists, increasing their contact with patients can result in more time for you to address other priorities.
A well-trained MA may be capable of sharing diagnoses with patients on a case-by-case basis. To ensure seamless quality care, do the following:
- Provide staff members with a dermatology atlas to familiarize themselves with more common cases.
- Make sure every patient experience is consistent and professional by developing formal staff training programs.
- Promote knowledge and curiosity by teaching your team about frequent medications and treatments.
It would also help to train your staff to be conduits between your clinic and the dermatopathology lab. While full-service digital dermatopathology labs like PathologyWatch return diagnoses directly to your patients’ EMR, having a staff member that follows up on orders and results is a positive way to keep the lines of communication open.
Spending more time now to retain reliable dermatology staff members means spending less time in the future filling positions and training new employees. Since preventable employee factors are responsible for 80 percent of healthcare industry turnover, here are some suggestions to ensure your team members feel job satisfaction:
Create a comfortable office culture.
Is anyone happy working in a frantic environment that treats every task like an emergency? While there will be times when urgency is in order, do your best to set the example of composure and positivity by setting reasonable expectations for tasks and time management. This includes keeping a level head and being respectful in your actions and speech.
See team members as individuals.
You’re all in this together, so avoid focusing on individual mistakes. Likewise, nobody wants to be singled out or embarrassed in front of others. Be encouraging, promote camaraderie, listen to employee feedback, and find teachable moments to increase efficiency and skills.
Share accolades and rewards.
Small gestures can go a long way. In addition to praising accomplishments with kind words, keep your staff motivated with performance pay or other incentivized bonuses.
Provide employee discounts.
Offer discounts on procedures and products to turn your staff into brand ambassadors. As a result, you can build loyalty from your employees while increasing public awareness.
Creating an environment where people look forward to coming to work benefits your staff retention while leaving a good impression on your patients.
Hire Qualified People
Tending to patients while meeting the demands of running a thriving dermatology practice would be a daunting challenge without reliable staff support. Start on the right foot by hiring individuals with the characteristics and skill sets you require to deliver quality care to your patients.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry will add nearly 2.5 million jobs by 2029. With a labor pool that size to choose from, make sure you aren’t settling for employees that aren’t going to make long-term contributions to your clinic. Trust your instincts if you don’t feel someone is a good fit for the job’s values, pace, or expectations. If you’re on the fence, suggest a trial period to ensure both parties are satisfied with the duties and performance.
Here are some personality traits to keep in mind as you identify features that translate to a valuable dermatology staff member:
- Ambitious: Your workload can get lighter with the support of enthusiastic individuals who don’t mind shouldering additional responsibilities.
- Personable: Single out people who are comfortable communicating and showing compassion with patients of all ages.
- Teachable: Surround yourself with staff members who are eager to learn and share new knowledge and skills.
- Team Player: Dermatology clinics require staff members to wear many hats to keep the front office and exam rooms working efficiently.
Managing a motivated and efficient dermatology clinic staff requires consistent attention and leadership. By expanding your team’s patient contact level, focusing on staff-retaining actions, and hiring qualified team members, you can surround yourself with the right people to serve your patients.
The healthcare industry is becoming increasingly convenient for patients with the rise of telehealth and greater access to medical records. Patient portals are now offered by nearly 90 percent of providers. While convenience is important, it is critical for your dermatology clinic to develop a personal touch and sound communication strategies for talking about diagnoses with your patients.
By taking the time to ensure your patients understand their diagnoses, training your staff to help share results, and knowing how to discuss diagnoses, you can help your practice keep patient experience and treatment a priority.
Taking Time to Educate Patients
Walk into a busy dermatology clinic and you will find staff members moving briskly to attend to patients, communicate with labs, manage the billing, work with insurance companies, and schedule out calendars. On top of this, the dermatologist balances limited time bouncing between exam rooms to take biopsies and guide treatments.
However, when it comes to sharing biopsy results, it’s vital to shift gears and take the time to help patients receive and understand the information with clarity. Because only 12 percent of patients can interpret their pathology report results correctly, dermatologists must be vigilant to ensure each patient leaves with an accurate comprehension of his or her condition. Here are a few suggestions to help engage the patient in their care.
Name their condition
By writing down the diagnosis and explaining it carefully, even if complicated (think CNH or GA), patients’ understanding and recall of their conditions improve. This correlates with increased patient satisfaction and adherence to treatment. Studies also show that patients forget 40-80 percent of what you tell them, so written communication is often best.
Give them a copy of their pathology report.
Consider printing out a copy of their pathology report. Having them read along as you explain the results can help to build confidence and absorb information. They will likely feel more comfortable asking questions.
Explain additional tests. A patient who understands his or her test results is likely to comprehend your reasoning for ordering further biopsies or studies.
Empower the patient
The more that patients understand, the more they are able to take personal responsibility for their own health and well-being. Time spent upfront counseling patients can result in improved outcomes, improving both patient and physician satisfaction.
Training Your Staff
The most powerful tool a dermatologist has is a supporting and capable staff. In addition to training team members on front and back-office tasks, you can save valuable time by giving medical assistants more ownership of the diagnosis-sharing process.
Patients want to receive their results as soon as possible. In one study, 67 percent of patients requested phone calls to receive their skin biopsy results because they wanted the information fast. By training and trusting your staff to communicate test results directly to patients, you can use this time to add an acute patient or catch up on documentation.
Your staff is listening as you interact with patients. Ask them to pay close attention to how you counsel patients so they can repeat the process on their own. Train your MAs to use handouts, images, or other devices to convey information in a comprehensible manner. Building relationships of trust by counseling with patients can make it easier and more personable when MAs follow up on treatments.
Dermatologists diagnose and treat various skin disorders, including eczema, psoriasis, infections, and skin cancers. The average dermatologist sees 40 to 50 cases per day and is exposed to uncommon conditions, such as atypical Spitz tumors.
Considered borderline lesions, atypical Spitz tumors can make it challenging to predict metastatic risk or biologic behavior. Because they can resemble malignant melanoma, it is essential to recognize atypical Spitzoid tumors, become familiar with associated diagnostic testing, and partner with dermatopathology experts that can provide your patients with accurate and efficient results.
Understanding Atypical Spitzoid Tumors
Lesions designated as atypical Spitzoid tumors (AST) confusingly appear as both Spitzoid melanomas and wholly benign Spitz nevi. Most commonly found in females with an average age of 22 years, the enigmatic lesion lacks standardized histological benchmarks, making consensus difficult for pathologists.
Because of the difficulty in defining the biologic potential using morphology alone, dermatopathologists will sometimes order additional ancillary testing to help characterize the lesion.
Additional testing platforms
Two techniques sometimes utilized to help characterize atypical Spitz tumors include Flourescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) and Array-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH). Flourescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) tests for characteristic chromosomal changes seen in tumors. Using a fluorescence microscope, short DNA fragments known as “FISH probes” are examined as they hybridize to tumor cells. By counting the resulting fluorescent dots, dermatopathologists can detect a loss or duplication of chromosome fragments. The method, used in combinations of four and five-probe FISH assays, is sometimes preferred as the primary molecular test because it is quick and straightforward and allows histopathologic correlation. In atypical Spitz tumors, probes are performed for covering the chromosomal loci 6p25, 8q24, 11q13, centromere 9, and 9p21.
Array-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) is used to establish areas of genomic imbalance. While few academic centers perform CGH due to the high cost and limited insurance reimbursement, the method produces higher resolution results, which enable the identification of genes related to Spitzoid melanocytic neoplasms. When a Spitzoid neoplasm has a genetic pattern similar to malignant melanoma, this can potentially result in a poorer prognosis and possibly a reclassification to Spitzoid melanoma.
There are additional ancillary testing modalities marketed in the dermatology community to aid in the diagnosis of melanoma. None of these tests, however, have been shown to be consistently reliable; therefore, many dermatopathologists do not utilize them except in very rare circumstances.
Finding Experts in Molecular Testing
When a dermatology clinic encounters an unfamiliar lesion, they turn to their dermatopathology laboratory for a correct and timely diagnosis. Aligning with a lab that embraces digital pathology can decrease turnaround time by 20 percent to up to 75 percent.
Partnering with expert dermatopathologists, like the team at PathologyWatch, means access to academic-level interpretations and judicious use of ancillary tests when indicated. In addition, utilizing a digital pathology workflow enables simultaneous corroborations on difficult lesions by multiple experts. Having a team of qualified pathologists on your side can be the difference between diagnosing a tissue sample as Spitz nevus or Spitzoid melanoma.
Though uncommon, your dermatology clinic may come across borderline lesions from time to time. By learning more about atypical Spitz tumors, understanding diagnostic testing, and knowing what to look for in a dermatopathology lab partner, you can empower your practice and continue to provide your patients with optimal care.