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.
As a dermatologist, you rely on your lab partner to provide correct diagnoses to ensure your patients receive the highest level of care. However, since communication errors are a major factor in up to 70 percent of adverse events, it’s easy to see how better communication with your dermatopathology laboratory can lead to better results.
Producing accurate results is a team effort. By identifying the information required for a definitive diagnosis, developing a communicative relationship, and enhancing communication through technology, you can help your dermatopathology lab consistently produce more valuable reports.
Facilitating Definitive Diagnoses
When it comes to complicated diagnoses (such as rashes/eruptions), it’s safe to say dermatologists get out of it as much as they put into it. In cases like these, the value of the report you receive from the lab sometimes reflects the amount and quality of clinical information you share with the dermatopathologist.
For instance, including your differential diagnosis in the requisition form can help steer the dermatopathologist in the right direction. This is particularly helpful when it comes to the diagnosis of inflammatory skin diseases. The histological findings may be subtle, and comprehensive clinical information, including photos, may be needed to arrive at the most accurate diagnosis.
By providing your dermatopathologist with clinical features, you can help ensure they have the required data to make a definitive diagnosis.
Relationships of Communication
When a dermatologist receives a report that is not definitive, it could be the result of the dermatopathologist not fully understanding the clinical scenario. In these cases, the dermatologist should be proactive and communicate with the dermatopathologist, providing any additional details for a more definitive diagnosis. For example, relevant information for an eruption may include the distribution, duration, symptoms, extent, and color. The dermatopathologist should also reach out to the dermatologist for more information when needed.
Meanwhile, dermatologists who value turnaround time and accurate results should make improving the relationship with the lab a priority. A survey of dermatopathologists showed that diagnoses were delayed due to lack of clinical information, as 45 percent of respondents spend more than 30 minutes a day tracking down clinical information that was not present on the order form. By voluntarily providing information upfront, following up as needed, and building relationships based on communication, you can help your dermatopathologist improve the quality of the lab results.
Digital tools can enhance laboratory reporting and enable clinicians to better correlate findings. For example, an EMR interface can simplify the transfer of data between your clinic and the lab. This can reduce the chances of errors by replacing handwriting and carbon copies. In clinics where handwritten requisition forms are used, digital tools provided by PathologyWatch enhance clinic flexibility by providing various reporting options.
PathologyWatch also supports clients interested in enhanced EMR reporting options. Where available, these EMR interfaces can provide the dermatopathologist with valuable clinical information, including clinical photos, visit notes, and the history of present illness to the laboratory. In addition, PathologyWatch is able to deliver results that speed up dermatologist report review and sign-off within their clinic.
By providing clinical features, taking a proactive role in communicating, and considering technology options to support your communication, you can experience better communication with your dermatopathology laboratory to produce better results.