Managing a motivated and efficient dermatology staff

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:

  1. Provide staff members with a dermatology atlas to familiarize themselves with more common cases.
  2. Make sure every patient experience is consistent and professional by developing formal staff training programs.
  3. 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. 

Staff Retention

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. 

Communication Strategies for Talking about Diagnoses with 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.

Putting Your Practice Management Tools To Work for Your Dermatology Clinic

Your practice management tools can be a costly part of your dermatology practice overhead. New practice management solutions are popping up frequently. With busywork costing physicians an average of $50,000 a year in lost revenue, it can be overwhelming to evaluate the latest timesaving or job-simplifying solutions in a busy practice. 

However, by examining your existing practice management tools, such as billing, your EMR, and your dermpath lab partner, you may discover increased efficiency may require some simple finetuning that makes a big difference to your bottom line.

Billing 

Collecting payment for the work you perform seems an obvious yet sometimes daunting task. A common question for dermatologists is whether to keep billing in-house or use a professional billing company. Each option has its benefits.

The advantage of a professional billing partner is the experience they bring to the table. About 10 percent of claims will be denied, and a high percentage of those (63 percent) are recoverable, so it’s important to resubmit denied claims. In addition to submitting and challenging claims, billing professionals can perform coding audits, credentialing services and potentially negotiating superior rates with insurance companies.

These companies typically charge a percentage of collections, ranging from 5 to 10 percent, and are therefore incentivized to maximize your collections. Look for a company that specializes in dermatology billing and talk to reference clients. Make sure they can work with your particular EMR or PM software.

A common issue for physicians using in-house billers is how to be confident that billing is being performed correctly. There are services that will perform a complimentary revenue cycle audit to ensure that you are maximizing your reimbursement.

EMR

Embracing the advantages of a modern, cloud-based EMR system can simplify record-keeping and maintain effective patient care in your dermatology clinic. It’s exciting to see more dermatology-specific EMRs created by dermatologists who understand the unique workflow of dermatology. While almost 86 percent of office-based physicians employ EMR/EHR systems, many have yet to tap into the full breadth of productivity-increasing features. 

Look for an EMR company that performs consistent upgrades and frequently informs and educates users about new timesaving benefits. After comprehensive onboarding, keep in touch with your EMR customer service representative to get answers to any questions or challenges your staff may encounter. Resolving performance issues is part of their job description, and it will save your team valuable time. Often, chat or emailing support is the most time-efficient way for staff to reach out for questions or troubleshooting, rather than calling the helpline.

Dermpath Lab

The working relationship between your dermatology clinic and the dermatopathology lab is critical to maintaining accurate and timely results for your patients. This alliance is particularly vital when you consider that a third of dermatologists work as solo practitioners.

One effective way to build this relationship is to establish open lines of communication. This includes providing accurate clinical information on your requisitions, conversations about difficult clinical cases, and correlation on challenging slides, such as alopecia or melanoma cases. In addition to quality assurance, these frequent conversations can also head off complicated billing issues before becoming a problem.

Your dermpath laboratory partner should keep you in supplies so your staff isn’t left scrambling to find requisition or shipping materials. The lab is also responsible for tracking samples from when they leave your practice until you receive the final results. 

Finding a lab that establishes an interface with your EMR can make a significant impact on your workflow. Instead of spending time managing paper charts and faxes, a full-service dermpath lab like PathologyWatch can return reports electronically into each patient’s EMR chart. Digital slides are also provided to the clinician along with the pathology report. This instantaneous, 24/7 access eliminates your MAs’ need to track and file paper trails and glass slides, leaving more time for meaningful patient correspondence. Also, labs like PathologyWatch offer broad insurance coverage and locum tenens contingencies, so there is always a backup ready to keep up with your tissue samples.  

Many dermatologists carry the daily pressure of meeting patient expectations while running a proficient and profitable clinic. By breaking down ways to make billing, EMR, and your dermpath lab partner work smarter and more efficiently, you may find ways to simplify and improve operations through your existing practice management tools.

Introducing the Digital Dermatopathology Digest: A Three-Minute Dermatopathology Review Video Series

Images shown are not intended to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a disease or condition.

The Digital Dermatopathology Digest (or 3D) is a new educational video series designed to review dermatopathology concepts commonly found in board assessments and examinations. Compact and precise, each video offers a quick summary of basic dermatopathology entities, which can serve as a short, high-yield review for dermatologists in practice or training.

The Digital Dermatopathology Digest is presented by PathologyWatch, a full-service dermatopathology laboratory revolutionizing digital pathology for dermatologists. Hosted by dermatopathologist Dr. Rajni Mandal, each video guides viewers through five key concepts while demonstrating the features in an interactive digital slide image.

In the first episode, viewers will learn about “Normal Skin and Variants,” reviewing five key concepts:

  1. The dermis can vary in thickness based on location.
  2. Acral skin has compact hyperkeratosis in the stratum corneum.
  3. Large terminal hair follicles and sebaceous glands are seen in scalp and hair-bearing skin.
  4. Solar elastosis can be seen in areas of sun damage.
  5. Apocrine glands are seen in the axilla, nipple, ear canal, eyelids, and genital area.

Whether you’re in residency, studying for board exams, or a practicing dermatologist looking to stay sharp, the Digital Dermatopathology Digest video series is your informational and convenient source for dermatopathology review. Find the full series here.

5 Valuable Dermpath Lab Offerings for Your Clinic

Did you know that anesthesiologists participate in around 90 percent of the 40 million surgical procedures that occur in the United States every year? While critical to the success of surgical teams, the contributions made by anesthesiologists can get overlooked. As unsung heroes, they serve as the patient’s lifeline, providing anesthesia and sedation during surgery while monitoring critical bodily functions. Similarly, many don’t recognize all of the valuable dermpath lab offerings that keep dermatology clinics running smoothly.

By learning more about how the dermatopathology laboratories oversee transportation, complete request forms, manage correlation, provide skilled lab technicians, and cover the cost of an EMR interface, your dermatology clinic can get more out of your partnership and continue to give your patients the quality care they deserve.

Transporting and Receiving Samples

Transporting tissue samples from your clinic is the dermpath lab’s responsibility. Since the United States accumulates over 20 million tissue specimens every year, this task requires careful management. After preparing the biopsy specimens in containers, packaging, and labels supplied by the lab, it is up to the lab to ensure materials arrive safely. 

When shipments reach the lab, an inventory is performed to count all of the bottles and confirm that the orders match the tissue samples. Missing specimens can be frustrating for dermatologists and their patients, resulting in costly delays. This audit process is critical to catch any errors up front before biopsies reach lab technicians and dermatopathologists. 

Request Forms

The information your dermatology clinic provides in the request form is vital to share clinicopathological correlation with the dermpath lab. The form’s necessary patient information includes biopsy site, type and duration of lesions, patient age, and past treatments or illnesses. 

However, when a dermatopathology laboratory reviews the request form, they are responsible for ensuring there aren’t any missing pieces. Just as 61 percent of patients avoid revealing information (information which could benefit their healthcare), it’s equally important for your clinic to provide a complete form with every specimen. If important information is omitted, a good lab will proactively reach out to you to fill in the blanks. 

Correlation in Challenging Cases

You and your patients rely on your dermpath lab partner to deliver accurate results. With approximately 100,000 Americans diagnosed with melanoma every year, the chances of your dermatopathologist running into difficult cases are high. 

Your dermpath lab often seeks correlation from dermatopathologist associates or outside consultants to avoid misdiagnosis on challenging skin biopsies. Working with full-service dermpath labs like PathologyWatch enables correlation with academic-level experts with assistance from digital pathology images. In an instant, multiple dermatopathologists can correspond and come to an accord on the specimen.

Lab Technicians

Behind every great dermatopathologist is a qualified lab technician. With responsibilities that include processing, cutting, embedding, and staining skin specimens, these individuals don’t often receive the credit they deserve for preparing specimen slides for evaluation.

EMR Interface

Like three out of five dermatology practices, you may be utilizing an EMR system to manage, store, and recall patient information. At one point, President George W. Bush praised EMR systems for helping the healthcare industry to “avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care.”

To maximize the capabilities of your EMR system, make sure you’re partnering with a dermpath lab that embraces the ability to digitally distribute and synchronize information between your clinic and the laboratory. It may come as a surprise that dermpath labs are responsible for funding and installing your EMR interface. They are also obliged to train your staff on how to utilize the system effectively. 

Like anesthesiologists, there are many beneficial functions and services your dermatopathology partner provides without a lot of fanfare. By understanding the importance of dermpath lab offerings, such as managing the transport of specimens, inspecting request forms, correlating with specialists, employing skilled lab technicians, and covering the costs of EMR interfaces, you can ensure your dermatology practice has the tools and technology to continue providing patients with optimal experiences.

Diagnostic Testing in Atypical Spitz Tumors

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.