Dermatopathology turnaround time is a critical quality indicator that every lab should continuously strive to improve. Laboratories are responsible for 60 percent of the vital information on a patient’s record and play a pivotal role in helping your dermatology practice maintain high patient satisfaction.

Achieving an acceptable pathology turnaround time depends on many factors. By considering patient expectations, the transportation process, laboratory workflow, and the differences between paper and digital pathology, your clinic can be sure to partner with a dermatopathology lab that delivers timely results.

Patient Expectations

When it comes to receiving pathology results, many patients want to know the diagnoses as soon as possible. Relaying a timely diagnosis can help to reduce hours, days, or weeks of distressing uncertainty. 

With this in mind, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) indicates 90 percent of routine pathology cases should meet the standard two business day turnaround time. The 48-hour turnaround does not begin until the specimen is received, or accessioned, by the lab. The process ends when the lab’s results are finalized in the laboratory—the lab documents this transaction as the report date. However, the overall turnaround time for a clinic can be much longer, due to factors affecting specimen transport, laboratory workflow, and report delivery.

Specimen Transport

Transporting specimens from the dermatology clinic is a significant factor that affects turnaround time. Working with a local lab requires the use of couriers to transport biopsy specimens. Partnering with a lab outside of your region can be relatively painless thanks to overnight shipping, though some rural locations may require additional time. Delays in transport can add significant delays in getting a report on time.

Laboratory Workflow

Once a specimen reaches the lab, staffing, experience, and workflow play a significant role in turnaround time. While many labs offer traditional weekday hours between 8 and 5, some offer night shifts or even 24/7 service. It’s also vital to confirm the dermatopathologists have the bandwidth and know-how to serve your patients properly, as turnaround time can increase by over 20 percent in complex cases. Digital pathology can save considerable time by enabling multiple remote pathologists to consult on a specimen simultaneously, which can give an accurate and expert diagnosis quicker than traditional laboratories.

Report Delivery

The lab shares the final pathology report with the requesting provider via fax, courier, or electronic interfaces. Since three out of five dermatologists have already adopted EMR technology, interfaces are the next logical step to take advantage of digital time savings.

Relying on physical paper to transfer information takes longer and opens up the possibility of human error. Going paperless with an EMR interface means that labs can instantly transfer results directly into a patient’s digital records. Clinics can also filter the digital lab results, so urgent cases appear at the top of the stack.

Digital pathology service providers like PathologyWatch manage the entire EMR interface process, leaving you with the satisfaction of instant electronic reporting from academic-level dermatopathologists.

Patient satisfaction and health outcomes can be impacted by long turnaround times, which can be ameliorated by an efficient laboratory system. When you acknowledge the patient’s expectations and recognize transportation and report delivery options, you and your lab partner can find ways to improve dermatopathology turnaround time.