Running a successful dermatology clinic means providing your patients with efficient and accurate care. For the almost three-quarters of the 13,847 American dermatologists practicing in offices of five or fewer physicians, having a reliable dermatopathology partner is paramount to the life of the business.
While there are many to choose from, it’s essential to understand that not all labs are alike. By knowing what to look for when it comes to diagnostic expertise, technical quality, accurate reporting, open communication, and cost-effectiveness, you can be sure to align your clinic with a qualified and reliable dermatopathology partner that can bolster the clinical quality of your practice.
Expertise in Pathology Diagnosis
Your dermatopathology partner is a virtual extension of your practice, which means your reputation is staked on how well they do their job. Take, for example, the case of a patient who had her local dermatologist run a biopsy on an atypical mole and dermatofibroma. The clinic sent the specimen to a busy laboratory for diagnosis. Due to poorly trained technicians and a subpar dermatopathology read, the lab returned an inaccurate, more malignant diagnosis, which recommended an unnecessary excision with significant morbidity.
What are the warning signs to help you avoid working with a lab that produces these kinds of results? Academically, a dermatopathologist must complete four years of medical school, plus a residency and fellowship, to acquire the proficiency to make accurate diagnoses. Don’t be shy about requesting credentials, paying close attention to reputable institutions and US board-certified accreditation in dermatopathology before making your selection.
High Technical Quality
Returning to the example from before, when the dermatologist requested to review the patient’s slides, she found the immunohistochemical stains in poor quality. A red chromogen overstained the cells and made the lesion appear more worrisome than it was.
It isn’t easy to make quality reads if the specimens don’t meet industry standards. As a practicing dermatologist, you’ve worked years to earn the trust of your patients. In return, 67 percent of patients report to trust or strongly trust their physicians. All the more reason to demand that your dermatopathology partner meet the same level of quality you strive for.
During your selection process, vet the lab to make sure it meets current laboratory accreditation standards. Nearly 70 percent of people choose their providers based on positive online reviews. You’re no different, so do your homework and see what existing and former clients have to say.
Useful Dermatopathology Reports
Back to our example, the patient’s diagnosis was missing a key component: the microscopic description. Also, the diagnosis did not correlate with the clinical findings. It took two weeks for the dermatopathologist daughter to receive the glass slides, wasting precious time.
A dermatologist requires accurate and organized information to provide patients with timely and factual results. In a 2020 study, 184 patients were presented with reports indicating a benign diagnosis. However, over 92 percent of participants were somewhat or very worried after reviewing the information based on a lack of understanding. The same misunderstanding can exist when a pathology report fails to report essential information, such as a definitive diagnosis with clinical correlation, or a microscopic description.
When considering all of the ingredients that go into a quality dermatopathology report, ease of access rises to the top. The quickest—and easiest—way to receive and manage reports is by having them sent directly into your EMR, which is another modern convenience of digital pathology. Using a digital pathology services provider like PathologyWatch results in rapid deployment of a high-quality report directly to your EMR.
A reliable dermatopathology partner will effectively transmit vital data to your clinic. In a study of melanocytic lesions, 79 percent of pathologists claimed they offered collaborative suggestions to colleagues to improve patient care. In that same spirit, seek a lab that goes out of their way to ensure you’re able to provide patients with the attention to detail they deserve.
Communication from the lab should be understandable, utilizing industry-standard medical vocabulary. Dermpath labs should correlate the diagnosis with clinical findings and allow you to see the images or slides the dermatopathologist used to make the diagnosis at any time. At PathologyWatch, we give clinicians immediate, 24-7 digital access to the corresponding pathology slides.*
In a final look at our example case, the patient received a bill directly from the laboratory for over $500. As it turned out, the clinic had sent her slides to a lab that was outside of her insurance network. If it were not for investigating the fact that her state has laws against surprise billing, she would have never known to contact her insurance company to get this invoice reduced to $25.
Aligning with a lab that offers efficient billing practices will help your clinic to maintain cost-effectiveness. With annual overbilling exceeding $40 billion, it’s critical to select a partner that provides varied and robust insurance contracts in the networks for the majority of your patients.
It’s not uncommon for patients to be direct-billed or even overbilled if they are out of network. Remember that patients will associate any confusion or burdens of cost from the lab as a direct reflection of your dermatology practice. Use caution to select a lab that is in-network with key insurance providers and has reasonable self-pay rates.
Your dermatopathology lab partner is a key part of your practice and an important contributor to the patient experience. By ensuring expertise in diagnosis, technical quality, detailed reports, clear communication, and efficient billing by your dermatopathology lab partner, you and your patients will have a significantly improved experience in working with your laboratory.