3 Myths about EMR Systems Your Clinic Should Know in 2021

Studies show that almost half of all healthcare clinics currently use electronic health records. Most users agree that digital technology successfully streamlines work processes, increases productivity, and improves customer service while expanding a clinic’s reach to other practices. 

But measurable EMR success begins with a better understanding of what EMR systems can (or cannot) do for your medical practice. Let’s discuss three of the most common misconceptions about implementing EMR software as part of your medical practice. 

Myth #1 – EMR Implementation Is Expensive

Much like purchasing medical equipment, there is a cost associated with converting to EMR, but let’s consider where some of your money is going right now:

  • Did you know that it costs around $25,000 to fill a four-drawer filing cabinet and over $2,000 every year to maintain those files?
  • Did you know the typical office spends around $20 in labor to file each document and $120 in labor searching for lost documents?
  • Did you know that, on average, employees spend around 25 to 35 percent of their time looking for information essential to doing their jobs?

When you add it all up, implementing an EMR can actually save on costs, as it can help simplify office processes that position your practice to maximize revenue by tracking revenue management cycles, reducing data input errors, supporting automated tasks, and collecting data for reporting. 

A long-term investment in EMR can create more manageable and scalable practices.

Myth #2 – All EMR Systems Are the Same

EMR systems are not all the same. There are 16 distinct electronic health record platforms currently in use in healthcare systems. In addition, “most hospitals have at least 10 EHRs in place and only two percent are down to just a pair of platforms,” says Tom Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Healthcare IT News

Since interoperability is essential for patient care, PathologyWatch offers an HL7 interface for our partners to use.* We provide training for our labs and cover costs to ensure patient information is shared on a dependable and efficient EMR system.

“One challenge with information sharing in healthcare is that there are many universally accepted electronic medical record systems,” says April Larson, a practicing dermatologist and director of clinical implementation at PathologyWatch. “Therefore, while healthcare is becoming increasingly digital, many of us are still disconnected and cannot share medical information—such as clinic notes, lab results, and pathology reports—as seamlessly as we would like.”

When shopping for EMR software, be sure to select an interface that allows your clinic to transfer patient data safely among your health services networks. 

Myth #3 – EMRs Interfere with Patient Engagement

Do EMR systems interfere with positive patient experiences? The answer is “possibly.” Patient engagement can be affected by caregivers’ reliance on technology and data at the exclusion of personal connectivity. The keyword here is “reliance.” 

As a recent National Institutes of Health study states, 

For example, nurses and other health care providers can be so focused on data from monitors that they fail to detect potentially important subtle changes in clinical status. Problems may emerge based on the sheer volume of new devices, the complexity of the devices, the poor interface between multiple technologies at the bedside, and the haphazard introduction of new devices at the bedside. 

With EMR technology, it’s true that too much of a good thing can be hard to manage. For example, it may be difficult to find specific information without sorting through the entire patient file. And that could take time away from interacting with the patient during their appointment. 

However, improvements are underway as EMR software designers work with medical professionals to enhance the patient/physician experience by making EMR tech more user-friendly. And that means new updates that filter patient files so doctors can access specific information rather than scrolling through every page. Considering 42 percent of dermatologists spend an average of nine to 12 minutes with each patient, quick access to information can make better use of limited time. 

Other projected innovations in EMR will connect dermatologists with patients via text messaging and offer online appointment scheduling, automated medication reminders, online appointment request portals, etc. The possibilities are directly geared toward improving the patient experience and supporting your growing dermatology practice. 

Electronic medical records are a fundamental part of future medical office processes. By understanding the long-term benefits of an EMR investment, selecting the EMR system that’s right for your clinic, and developing a balance between technology and positive patient engagement, the success of your dermatology practice won’t be a myth: It will be a legend.

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*Over 90 percent of healthcare system vendors use a Health Level Seven (HL7) Interface, which refers to set standards for transferring data between healthcare providers.

Teledermatology in the COVID Era

Despite the benefits touted by telemedicine enthusiasts, widespread adoption of this technology has lagged in the healthcare industry. However, with the onset of COVID-19, a new era of telemedicine has begun. Almost overnight, telemedicine became more accepted by regulators, providers, insurance companies, and patients. The combination of improved video technology, patient demand, and provider acceptance has eased restrictions and pushed telemedicine to the forefront in the medical industry. 

In addition, dermatopathology is following this trend. Regulations for the remote use of pathology have changed in light of COVID-19, making it possible for pathologists to work remotely and support the use of digital pathology technology for the duration of the pandemic.

With the universal adoption of video conferencing, 20 percent of all medical visits are happening via telemedicine. Here are a few reasons to consider teledermatology:

Convenience

Recent surveys show that a common reason over one-third of patients may prefer telemedicine visits is saving time by avoiding the commute to a provider’s office. For instance, telemedicine can reduce the amount of time away from work or the cost and headaches of arranging childcare. Patients can be productive while waiting for the video conference instead of spending time in the waiting room. Even older patients who might have struggled with technology adoption in the past are more likely to embrace telemedicine options to avoid the increased COVID complications and mortality associated with this at-risk population.

Accessibility

Dermatologists can now use traditional billing codes for teledermatology visits. Teledermatology is accessible even when providers or patients may be out sick but are not debilitated. Many people who test positive for COVID are asymptomatic and would still like to keep their appointments if possible. This helps control the inevitable cancellations required for patients with cold symptoms and need to rule out COVID or flu infection before presenting in your office.

Because of increased access provided by digital dermatopathology, companies like PathologyWatch can employ a national network of dermatopathology experts. Many areas do not have access to dermatopathologists and often rely on expensive locum tenens to provide specialty or overflow care. Also, it can take several weeks to get a second opinion on a case. With a digital workflow, digital slides can be more quickly accessed for consensus diagnosis or consultation.

Teledermatology also provides people living in rural areas or mobility challenges with easy access to medical care using synchronous live video-conferencing. The CDC indicates that telemedicine “can help reduce barriers to care for people who live far away from specialists or who have transportation or mobility issues.” As one dermatologist described, “Our specialty is a visual field, and there are many skin conditions which are diagnosable from looks alone.” Dermatology lends itself well to photographic consultations by primary care providers to dermatologists. 

Safety

During the COVID pandemic, the CDC established guidelines to keep healthcare workers and vulnerable patients safe during face-to-face visits. Despite these precautions, healthcare workers are still seven times more likely to develop severe COVID-19 infection than individuals performing nonessential jobs.

Teledermatology encourages a workflow that keeps providers and their staff safe from contracting diseases from patients or other staff members. Also, video conferencing can allow for the outsourcing of specific tasks, such as a scribe. This can help dermatology clinics by having a safe pool of healthcare workers that don’t have a higher risk of developing COVID-19. 

Patient Satisfaction

Up to 48 percent of people prefer providers who offer telemedicine visits. A consumer survey revealed that 75 percent of patients who participated in virtual care were very or completely satisfied with the experience. 

Meanwhile, telemedicine can level the socioeconomic playing field. Access Derm is an AAD-supported teledermatology program where volunteer dermatologists can help underserved populations who don’t have access to a dermatologist. It helps provide critical preventive care and second opinions, improving the quality of life and reducing the expense of future treatments by diagnosing skin cancer at earlier stages, for example. 

When to Consider Teledermatology

Consider teledermatology options for follow-up visits that focus primarily on counseling rather than diagnosis. With these types of patients, rapport has already been established through in-person visits, and with straightforward diagnoses—like acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis—much of the return visit focuses on review of lab work, medication counseling, and treatment changes if patients are not responding to first-line therapies. In particular, iPLEDGE patients or their caregivers, who are required to have monthly visits for the duration of therapy, may save significant time through a teledermatology visit. 

While not all visits are possible through video conferencing, making healthcare convenient can encourage more people to seek regular consultations and take better care of themselves.

Tips to Open Your Own Dermatology Practice

You’ve done it. You’ve decided to take the plunge and open your own dermatology practice. Congratulations! But take care: With about 20 percent of new small businesses failing in the first year, it’s key to learn from those who have traveled the road to health services self-employment before you. So before you shop for locations and window treatments, here are five strategic tips to ensure your open-for-business experience is healthy and successful. 

Secure your capital. 

It’s true: For a new business to succeed, it really does take money to make money. Experts estimate that almost 30 percent of new businesses fail because they run out of cash. In fact, results collected by Investopedia show that two of the four most common reasons why small businesses fail involve cash-flow problems—mainly insufficient budgeting and a lack of sufficient capital. 

For Daniel Lambert, CEO of PathologyWatch, exploring various forms of capital was pivotal to startup success. “Look at raising from different asset classes: private equity, growth equity, sovereign wealth funds, PE firms, family offices and cash-rich investors. There are many sources of capital that are often overlooked,” he advises. 

Once you’ve formalized your vision and bolstered it with a satisfactory cash flow, it’s essential to hire key players who share your vision and offer expertise in fundamental skills. 

Hire people with office management, business, and legal expertise.

You may be an expert at differentiating herpes zoster from acne vulgaris, but do you know the latest HIPAA compliance requirements or how to handle payroll tax? Your staff will need both clinical and nonclinical support, so one of your first steps should be hiring those with hands-on management, legal structure, and compliance experience. 

“Choosing the right legal structure for your medical practice is one of the most important business decisions you’ll make,” says Jack Wolstenholmhead of content marketing at LeverageRx. “Deciding whether to establish a sole proprietorship or a more complex legal structure must be thought through wisely. It requires calculating both the costs and benefits to your practice, and factoring in your risk tolerance to liability.”

Staying ahead of the game in one of the most highly regulated industries could mean the difference between staying open or becoming a statistic. 

Establish your specialized services.

What is your specialty? For instance, if you’re setting up a practice in an area with a year-round sunny climate, specializing in skin-cancer treatment could be your focus. If you are unsure, check out practices in the area. Remember that while you are providing healthcare, you are also a small business owner. That means keeping an eye on your competitors. To narrow down prospective areas, call some practices to check on waiting times for an appointment for new patients. If the wait time is longer than two weeks, there’s plenty of room for another doctor. 

“Public demographic information can tell you about future growth in different communities,” say experts at The Dermatologist. “If you expect to attract patients from many different communities, look at traffic flow to make sure your practice is easily accessible.” 

Your expertise will help build your patient base, but it’s the mindset of a small business owner that will help keep your doors open for business.

Start by investing only in the essential equipment and space.

With this new cash flow, it’s tempting to overspend during the initial stages of business development. Before you schedule the interior decorator, look at your financial overhead with a long-term perspective. This endeavor is going to put your ability to maximize cash flow to the ultimate test. 

One area where you can minimize overhead expenses is usable physical space. Experts recommend starting small and leaving room for expansion. For example, when Jerome Obed, DO, a board-certified dermatologist who runs Broward Dermatology and Cosmetic Specialists in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, opened his new practice, he only prepared two out of his four exam rooms. When his patient numbers increased, he furnished the remaining two exam rooms in his office. 

The process of gradually building up at the same rate of acquiring new patients applies to investing in equipment as well. When you’ve determined your specialty, those are the pieces that should be purchased first. To control startup costs, we’ll discuss later the options of outsourcing certain functions to free up funds to purchase essential equipment.

Along with medical equipment, your IT system is an essential part of your office operation—and one of the most expensive. “You’ll need a practice management system for demographic information, scheduling, and billing, and an electronic health record (EHR) system for patient information,” say the staff at The Dermatologist.

Consider outsourcing functions.

Using a third-party service for billing or payroll tasks is a common practice for medical offices of all sizes. Services like PathologyWatch can manage both the business and technology aspects of digital pathology technology. That means your startup can offer all of the services you need to grow your new practice without having to invest in your own laboratory equipment and lab staff. 

You may not know what lies ahead when you open your own dermatology practice. But by talking with people who share in your journey for a private dermatology practice and following these five proven tips, you can learn ways to minimize risk while maximizing opportunities for growth.

PathologyWatch Raises $2M in Extension Funds to Bolster Pathology AI Research

Funding led by Neue Fund and BioVentures Investors to extend pathology AI research and allow strategic life science and AI investors into the round.

SALT LAKE CITY, December 16, 2020—PathologyWatch has announced $2M in extension funding from Neue Fund, BioVentures GmbH, Lateral Capital, BeniVC and Sky Ventures. PathologyWatch will direct the capital towards digital dermatopathology development and scaling the laboratory system to extend pathology AI research and to allow additional strategic life science and AI investors into the round. 

Following $5M series A funding, the $2M extension brings the total capital PathologyWatch has raised to $7M series A. The company has raised over $10M total capital to date. The extension funds will bolster operations to facilitate larger clients and continue progress in developing innovative technology, including the extension of artificial intelligence research for various cancer lines.

“It’s thrilling to see our year-over-year volume triple,” said Dan Lambert, Pathlogywatch CEO and cofounder. “With that increase comes the demand to improve algorithms, build out operational volume, increase lab capacity and augment staffing to ensure our clients achieve optimal patient outcomes.”

PathologyWatch specializes in providing dermatology clinics with fully interfaced EMR reporting and 24/7 access to digital slides. In addition to more efficient workflows and faster turnaround times, clients have direct access to leading dermatopathologists.

“In the digital dermatopathology universe, PathologyWatch stands apart with cutting-edge technology and services designed to improve the human experience,” noted Cofield Mundi of Neue Fund. “Our confidence couldn’t be higher in their ingenuity and devotion to advancing the digital dermatopathology landscape.”

About PathologyWatch

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 partner 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.

View the original release.

PathologyWatch Makes Your Dermpath Workflow Easy as Pie

The healthcare industry is busier than ever. While patients are grateful for quality dermatology care, staying competitive in the marketplace can be challenging for those just starting out or looking to expand their practice.

Here are three ways PathologyWatch can streamline your dermpath workflow to be easy as pie:

Ensure Tantalizing Turnaround Times on Lab Results

Patient satisfaction and health outcomes can be impacted by long turnaround times, mainly when a patient’s condition requires a quick response to starting treatment. If this is a new practice, a great way to reduce overhead expenses without compromising accuracy or quality patient care is to partner with a digital pathology service provider.

There are at least two benefits of this partnership. First, studies show that using a lab with experience in digital pathology to read slides improves your chances of receiving a result within 48 hours. The most important asset you can share with your patients after their examination or procedure is information. When you have a solid partnership with an experienced lab, tracking the status of samples and obtaining results quickly is meaningful to patients.

Second, since slides are digitized, they can be shared among experts. Best of all, your patients will display an attitude of gratitude as they view their results and discuss treatment options with a better understanding of their case.

Serve Up an EMR Interface

Studies show that three out of five dermatologists have already adopted EMR technology, a logical choice for a busy dermatology office. “When a dermatology practice sees 40–50 patients per day, relying on paper to manage the workflow can create inefficiencies and impact the time to deliver results to patients,” explains April Larson, MD.

But not all EMR technology performs the same or cooperates with other systems. “To move beyond the challenges of paper, dermatopathology lab services like PathlogyWatch can build an HL7 interface directly to the dermatology clinic’s EMR to optimize margins of error and turnaround times, preserving precious staff and provider time,” adds Larson.

PathologyWatch utilizes an HL7 interface, enabling the lab to quickly send reports directly to your EMR of choice. In some instances, it populates a patient’s diagnosis and treatment details. This means all of the patient’s information is centralized and easily accessible. “The adoption of technology can save the staff from menial, time-consuming tasks and allow them to participate more in patient care, which increases both staff and patient satisfaction,” says Larson.

Provide Support a la Mode

Every system has hiccups and challenges. Find a lab with friendly staff members who are responsive to patient billing issues, technical problems, or just general questions. This makes it easy and comfortable when your staff unavoidably need to reach out for help with patient care in the dermatopathology arena. This is especially important because your team often takes the heat from unhappy patients, so it helps when your ancillary partners are eager to help and relieve those burdens.

Running a dermatology practice is an incredibly rewarding experience. By finding supportive partners, updating medical records processes that streamline work, and partnering with innovative services that offer both accurate and speedy results for patients, your dermpath workflow will be the icing on the “pie.”

Bad Online Review? Four Ways to Convert Patient Criticism into an Opportunity

Negative Online Review

Example of a bad online review.

Pretty harsh, isn’t it? Although this review isn’t referring to any of our medical clients, it illustrates the daily challenges healthcare providers face in the digital space.

Online patient reviews can either make or break a dermatology clinic’s reputation and practice. According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of consumers say they use online reviews as the first step in finding a new physician. During that search, studies found that only 14 percent of consumers would consider using a business with a one- or two-star rating.

In other words, online reviews are a big deal. A study by Dimensional Research found that 90 percent of people who read online reviews admitted their buying decisions are influenced by positive reviews. And 86 percent said their decisions are impacted by negative online reviews. 

How does that affect a business, lab, or dermatology clinic? A Moz study found that a business will lose about 22 percent of potential customers from one negative online review that appears in an online search. Two negative search results can double the loss of potential customers. “Have four or more negative articles about your company or product appearing in Google search results? You’re likely to lose 70% of potential customers,” says Dan Hinckley at Moz. 

Be proactive in protecting your brand. When negative reviews appear online, don’t ignore them. Instead, take it as an opportunity to show you care about your patients. Here are four ways to do so. 

1. Invest in reputation management.

Most doctors don’t invest much time in reputation management or tracking online reviews or searches, but they should. Here’s why: 

Improved SEO. Search engines prioritize sites that have frequently updated, relevant, and uniquely worded content. This means your online reviews (both good and bad), engagement, and comments can also improve search results. So encourage your patients to share their experience online and be engaged with a response. 

Credibility. We want to project a positive image, and tracking online reviews is a great way to ensure you are connecting with your patients. But a smattering of negative reviews—and how you respond to them—can actually help build credibility in your practice. Studies show that 85 percent of users trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. By welcoming feedback and creating an online “community” through comments, you are building a trustworthy and credible brand. 

“Online reviews matter,” explains Inc.com contributor Craig Bloem. “And that’s why you need to create and maintain a process that encourages your customers to leave reviews, monitors the reviews they leave, and improves any negative reviews you might receive.”

2. Determine if the response should be public or private.

As shown in the above example, a patient will use an online platform to vent frustrations for a variety of reasons. The important thing is to offer a public apology. “Remember, while you are exchanging messages with the reviewer, other people are reading your comments and wondering whether or not to visit your practice,” explain the staff at My Practice Reputation. 

Your medical practice can fall victim to any number of criticisms: “The parking was bad.” “Your office was hard to find.” “The waiting room was too noisy.” In those cases, a public apology and a reassurance that your patients experience at your office is a priority can be handled online. But if the reviewer is referring to the care he or she received—regardless of whether or not you feel the complaints are legitimate—you’ll want to be more discrete. Extend a public apology, reiterate how important it is for your team to deliver excellent patient care and that you welcome feedback, and invite the reviewer to reach out to your office to discuss what happened.

3. Keep the conversation solution-oriented.

If the patient contacts your office, quickly pull the file and review what happened from the patient’s perspective. Then put your office to the test: How was the patient greeted? Did the office staff use discretion when verifying personal information? How was the exchange between the doctor and patient? Why did the patient leave feeling frustrated? If possible, encourage the patient to describe his or her experience to uncover the breakdown in the situation. Then ask the patient what you and your staff could have done better.

“Most patients who leave negative reviews just want to feel heard,” says Erin Kitchen at Medical Economics. “You can even gain real insight and grow from their feedback!” For example, use feedback to improve office processes. Or allow more time between appointments to ensure patients have plenty of time to ask questions. 

Don’t ask the patient to remove the negative review. In some cases, the patient will volunteer to remove the negative review or add a follow-up post that the situation was resolved.

4. Consider legal help for extreme cases.

Fake reviews happen. That’s why safeguarding your online reputation is essential. If you discover the online review was posted by an aggressive competitor, for example, or by people who aren’t verifiable patients but post defamatory comments or reviews, you can demand the reviewer remove the post. 

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, some situations can’t be resolved without involving legal support. In those cases when an online reviewer refuses to take down a false review post, legal experts suggest taking the information you have about the online reviewer and consulting with an attorney. The attorney will send a letter alerting the reviewer of legal action should he or she refuse to take down the posted review. As a final resort, your attorney can notify the website, website host, owner, and internet service provider. 

Keep in mind that the process of working with a legal team or the online platform can be slow. For quicker results, continue encouraging patients to share positive (and recent) reviews about your patient care and leverage that positive feedback. 

Online patient reviews can literally change the way customers view your dermatology practice. By figuring reputation management into your marketing efforts and treating a negative review as a marketing opportunity, you can tap into valuable insights on ways to better connect with potential customers and offer the best patient care possible.