The digital transformation of the field of pathology brings many advantages to dermatologists. Doctors who utilize digital pathology services may experience a 50 percent faster turnaround time and 40 percent more efficient workflow, so it’s no wonder that there is a demand for these services. But some dermatologists are reluctant to try digital pathology for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s loyalty to their current dermpath, worries about slide quality or cost, or simply a lack of exposure to digital trends, there are a variety of barriers.
To better understand these barriers and dermatologists’ current pain points, we recently partnered with The Solution Lab and conducted a survey and in-depth interviews of licensed dermatologists across the United States. Following are some of the key findings from the study.
Finding Opportunities to Try New Technology
There is clearly a future for digital pathology within dermatology. The dermatologist survey found that 65 percent of respondents receive their pathology reports via fax. However, those surveyed also indicated that given the choice, the majority (64 percent) would prefer EHR integration or a web-based lab portal.
Why the gap? Dermatologists may simply need additional education regarding the availability and implementation of digital pathology. For some dermatologists, this may mean better education on the significant advances in and clinical utility of digital pathology. For dermatologists in rural areas, this may mean better awareness of EHR vendors and dermatopathology labs that provide opportunities for integration. Many dermatopathology labs have not yet embraced EHR integration and still prefer to send results via fax, so dermatologists using these labs do not have the option of integrated reporting.
According to the dermatologist survey, there is clearly a future for whole-slide imaging and digital pathology within dermatology.
Reducing Turnaround Time
Among most dermatology clinics, there are a couple of major time-saving opportunities associated with digital pathology. First, the turnaround time for 60 percent of doctors from taking a biopsy to receiving pathology reports for routine cases is five days or more. This time extends when additional stains or an outside consultation is required. Digital pathology, with the ability to share slides more widely or with an expert dermatopathology network, could help improve those turnaround times. In fact, PathologyWatch has used digital pathology to reduce turnaround times to as little as 48–72 hours from the time of biopsy.
Also, 21 of the 24 providers surveyed agreed that EHR integration could significantly reduce office staff time required to manually input data into the EHR. PathologyWatch users have seen this input time reduced by as much as 15 percent.
In the dermatologist survey, a majority of dermatologists reported that they would like the ability to see or search an archive of cases digitally.
- 80 percent of those surveyed said they would like access to digital slides to view alongside their pathology report.
- 71 percent want the ability to see and/or search their pathology slides from anywhere, at any time.
- 71 percent would like the ability to send cases out digitally to other providers.
Interview respondents added context to these potential use cases:
One provider from Massachusetts had little interest in digital pathology until a patient needed slides sent to a specialist: “I didn’t have an efficient way of sending slides since this hadn’t come up before. At that moment, I wished I had the ability to send digital slides.”
“Digital slides would allow me to review more slides,” said another respondent from California. “I work in multiple offices and the slides are only in one, leading to difficulty with access.”
For dermatologists who don’t currently review their own slides, digital pathology offers the opportunity to review slides without needing other expensive equipment.
Nearly 50 percent of surveyed dermatologists would like digitized slides for cross-referencing reports. In fact, 90 percent of respondents said that the ability to cross-reference with a written report would influence them to view slides more frequently.
For participants in the dermatologist survey who don’t currently review their own slides, digital pathology offers the opportunity to review whole-slide images without needing other expensive equipment.
Expanding Access to a Network of Experts
Patients and dermatologists alike could benefit from greater access to expert dermatopathologists. That’s one compelling reason to take advantage of digital dermatopathology. In the survey, 70 percent of respondents noted they would like their cases to be read by more experts nationwide.
Over 70 percent of the respondents in the dermatologist survey disclosed that they would prefer to assign cases to pathologists of their choice.
Over 70 percent also disclosed that they would prefer to assign cases to pathologists of their choice. That’s understandable; professional and personal relationships are strong, and it’s important for dermatologists to trust the experts with whom they consult.
To improve clinical outcomes, it may be important to expand and connect the network of expert dermatopathologists around the country. This doesn’t mean abandoning professional and personal relationships—it means taking advantage of technology to form new relationships and collaborations. Many large dermatopathology labs use multihead microscopes to review cases with each other. Digital pathology makes it even easier for pathologists to review cases collaboratively, just like dermatologists are able to share photographs of difficult cases with each other.
PathologyWatch’s mission is to preserve and extend life for patients while reducing the cost of healthcare, and many dermatologists share that same mission. As these dermatologist survey results suggest, while there are some barriers to adopting WSI or integrating EHR, there are significant benefits. Reducing turnaround time, improving convenience, and expanding access to experts are all benefits that can come when dermatologists adopt these technologies.
A healthy practice relies on establishing meaningful relationships with your patients. You want them to feel special and valued. So it can be a little disconcerting when you’ve pulled the file for a pregnant patient you anticipate is getting checked for melasma only to meet a 16-year-old new patient, who arrived to discuss his acne.
Sometimes file mix-ups have more serious consequences than mistaken identities. Studies show that from the initial biopsy to the acquisition of the pathology report, a specimen may pass through the hands of more than twenty people and several workplaces.
To prevent specimen mix-ups and other errors with patient information, NIH recommends, first, standardization in work processes, and second, automating tasks wherever possible. To do this, consider digitizing your clinic and laboratory processes.
Here are three ways transitioning to electronic medical records (EMR) have helped numerous dermatology practices minimize errors and create a streamlined and error-free clinic workflow.
Patient Data Is Easy to Share
EMR technology was designed to house patient information in a location that is easy to organize and share with other healthcare providers, insurance, pharmacies, labs, other clinics, billing, etc.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says, “Documenting a patient’s record with all relevant and important facts, and having that information readily available, allows providers to furnish correct and appropriate services that can improve quality, safety, and efficiency.”
At PathologyWatch, our clients appreciate easy access to digital images as well as pathology reports, patient’s HIPAA-compliant, digital medical history, etc., which are accessible on the patient’s EMR.
EMR Provides a Complete Patient Record
Did you know around one out of every 20 people who saw a doctor last year reported having to redo a test or procedure because their prior data was unavailable?
Maintaining a patient’s identity and complete medical history throughout the biopsy pathway is critical for the practice of dermatology and dermatopathology. Your patients need to trust that you can provide the best care based on a comprehensive understanding of their patient history. So while a recent study discovered 32 percent of people who visited a doctor within the past 12 months experienced a gap in information exchange, your patients shouldn’t have to worry about the quality of their care if you’ve transitioned their patient information to EMR. You can confidently address your patient’s case and concerns based on a complete and current patient record.
Add Value To Other Parts of Workflow
Surveys show that 60 percent of clinics already have implemented EMRs in their practice, but most have not yet experienced the full capabilities that an interface provides. “The exchange of information through this interface can simplify your daily workflow considerably,” explains April Larson, a practicing dermatologist and director of clinical implementation and advisory board at PathologyWatch. “By way of an HL7 interface, the lab can send reports electronically directly to your patient chart and, in certain instances, populate the diagnosis and treatment, streamlining your review and signoff.”
The adoption of EMR technology minimizes menial, time-consuming tasks for your clinical staff and allows them to participate more in patient care, which increases both staff and patient satisfaction.
Your patients depend on you to provide the best care possible. When you use an EMR system to organize patient information that’s easy to access, update, and share with health services partners, you can focus on what really matters: your patient.
Learn more about the pros and cons of an EMR interface here.