As medical reimbursement continues to fluctuate, practicing smarter instead of harder or longer becomes even more critical for dermatologists. Running a thriving dermatology practice demands that business owners continually examine ways to increase staff efficiency and maintain patient satisfaction. The average staff-to-dermatologist FTE ratio is between 5:1 and 6:1—but, when they are seeing 40 to 50 patients a day, dermatologists still often take work home with them.

Meanwhile, a recent study indicates that only 30 percent of Gen X dermatology patients are “completely satisfied” with their provider. By cross-training your staff, maximizing your EMR, being prepared, and partnering with the right dermatopathology lab, you can discover ways to maximize your staff’s time to work smarter while maintaining or improving patient satisfaction.

Cross-Train Your Staff

Traditionally, clinic staffing has included front-office staff focused on checking patients in and out of the clinic, collecting payments, and scheduling appointments. Selecting composed and capable individuals to fill these positions is critical since customer service is the source of over 95 percent of patient complaints. Medical assistants and back-office personnel are trained to assist in patient rooms, handle clinical questions, call back biopsy and lab results, and manage clinical supplies.

However, many clinics now find it more useful to train staff to perform both front- and back-office tasks. That way, if someone is out sick, needs to take time off, or requires a helping hand, any staff member can step in to assist. Some clinics have a dedicated float person who can call in prescriptions, answer phones to schedule appointments, or triage patient questions. Having someone who is clinically savvy cover the front desk can increase efficiency by knowing when to add or overbook patients without requiring other staff or the physicians to make the right call.

Maximize Your EMR

It can be hard to invest the extra time setting up an EMR effectively with templates and favorites with a busy schedule. Since up to 80 percent of dermatologists use EMR systems, talk to colleagues to get their suggestions. While you’re at it, see if they have any electronic templates or lists of commonly used medications that your staff can enter as favorites. If no one you know is using an EMR, try joining a dermatology Facebook group—such as The Board Certified Dermatologists or Business of Dermatology—where you can ask questions or search old posts.

Some clinics have both a dedicated scribe and medical assistant in the room during patient visits. This way, the scribe can accurately document the appointment, allowing you to bill appropriately for the service level. Meanwhile, the MA can make biopsy preparations, take photographs, or fill out paperwork for you. Consider having staff start patient notes before the patient arrives so they can ask directed follow-up questions and give a more useful summary before you see the patient.

Some EMRs now offer the ability to print requisitions and labels. Taking advantage of this feature can save staff from handwriting forms and labels, which is slow and prone to error.

Time invested up front can save hours of time for the clinical staff, who have to do less manual input and can spend more time counseling the patient than charting. Suppose your templates or patient handouts contain all the prompts for counseling. In that case, the MA has a template to follow, so patients consistently receive all necessary information instead of relying on their memory to counsel them. By allowing them this one-on-one time with patients, medical assistants often find more meaning in their job and create better relationships with them, leaving you time to catch up on notes or fit in an urgent visit.

Be Prepared

If a patient needs a biopsy, rescheduling the patient will cost staff time setting up a new appointment, checking in again, and rooming the patient. With no-show rates as high as 30 percent in the United States, it’s essential to promptly ensure your patients receive the care they require. 

Suppose your biopsy tray is already set up and ready for a shave biopsy, with appropriate tools and paperwork ready to go. In that case, you can perform the biopsy while the patient is already in the room and disrobed. Consider having your rooms organized with easily accessible supplies grouped by types of procedures. If appropriate, preprinted patient labels can help save time during a busy clinic. You can also slap a label on patient paperwork rather than handwriting the label.

Having tear-off sheets printed for follow-up appointments or frequently recommended over-the-counter treatments can also save staff time and money. Printing in bulk at your local copy store or an online resource can help you save on supply costs like paper and ink, preserve staff time, and become more organized with frequently used handouts at your disposal.

Find the Right Dermatopathology Lab

Fast turnaround times combined with quality reporting will save you and your staff time. Receiving timely reports helps patients get results and treatments more quickly, decreasing patient calls and increasing patient satisfaction by up to 8 percent.

Partnering with a lab that offers an EMR interface speeds up the process even more. Reports automatically interface with the specific patient’s chart, eliminating the need to scan in paper faxes or sort through pages of e-faxes, providing the staff time to address other tasks. Providers can review photographs and results simultaneously and process clinical decisions more quickly.

In addition, having access to your digital biopsy slides can improve your clinicopathologic correlation on the case and result in the most appropriate clinical diagnosis and subsequent treatment.* It also allows the dermatologist to review the slide in real-time with the dermatopathologist. When needed, expert consults can be processed in-network, saving time in the long run by delivering precise diagnoses and reduced billing issues. Also, by allowing your dermatopathologist to contact you directly, they can more easily reach out when additional correlation is needed on a case or notify you about melanoma diagnoses.

With 12 million skin lesions biopsied in the United States every year, the demand has never been greater for labs to demonstrate competence and value to the dermatologists they serve. Joining forces with a full-service dermpath lab like PathologyWatch provides all these benefits by giving quality reporting, fast turnaround times, digital access to your slides, and clinicians who care about each case.

Increasing staff efficiency while maintaining patient satisfaction is key to the long-term success of dermatologists. Take proactive measures to cross-train your staff, make full use of your EMR, prepare for every case, and partner with a capable dermatopathology lab to maximize your staff’s time and get the most productivity out of your clinic. 

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