How Automation Can Help Drive Success

This article was originally published in the December 2020 & January 2021 issue of Executive Decisions in Dermatology, a publication of ADAM (Association of Dermatology Administrators and Managers).

Staff burnout is a prevalent issue that continues to affect dermatology practices at an alarming rate. Longer shifts and excessive workloads due to inefficient, error-prone manual processes have strained the work-life balance of dermatologists and their staff, reducing efficiency and potentially leading to high turnover rates. In my 30 years of experience in the medical field, I have observed that burnt-out physicians and office staff who continually miss family time due to an ever-rising pile of paperwork isn’t good for practice morale — not to mention patient care.

Burnout isn’t new to dermatology. A 2014 Mayo Clinic study revealed that dermatologists had the largest three-year increase in burnout of any medical specialty, rising from 32% in 2011 to 57% in 2014. In the six years since, burnout rates have only continued to rise, with three-quarters of dermatologists polled in a January 2020 industry survey reporting symptoms of burnout or depression. However, by leveraging advanced technology to reduce the burden of data entry and information overload, dermatologists can take proactive steps to help prevent staff burnout and foster sustained long-term success.

Automated Patient Reminders

Patient reminders are a perfect example of a routine task for which small steps towards automation can have a huge impact on staff time and wellbeing.

In my experience, I’ve seen front office staff spend untold amounts of time on the phone each day, confirming patient appointments and rebooking cancellations in an effort to head off the dreaded “patient no show.” Although we would call patients two days ahead of time to confirm their appointments, many would often still forget, forcing us to follow up – repeatedly – to reschedule.

With automated patient reminders, front office staff can get as much as two-plus hours back in their day — allowing them to spend more time with patients without feeling rushed. In this case, automation leads to happier employees who can offer better patient services, which leads to better patient experiences.

Efficient Processing of Insurance Claims

It’s no secret that billing and coding are a huge contributor to staff burnout — in fact, the inefficiencies caused by inaccurate or incomplete claims are the second-leading cause of burnout in dermatology. In addition, the burden of manually coding office visits can lead to incorrect coding with CPT and ICD-10 codes, which can lead to claims being rejected or denied by the payer. This in turn creates more work for the billing staff, who have to investigate what happened with that claim and then resubmit it. Having an intelligent Electronic Health Record (EHR) that will suggest codes to be billed during the documentation process will help the provider document more quickly while helping the billing staff at the same time.

With a system that will scrub the claims to help identify errors before the claim is sent out, you can help your staff review claims more efficiently. This can take the detective work out of insurance claims — many non-specialty specific solutions will scan the claim and report it’s incorrect but won’t say why. Instead of having to play detective, solutions such as Modernizing Medicine®’s EMA® can provide actionable corrections before the claim leaves the platform. This can reduce the tedious guesswork of meticulously analyzing claims manually for errors or dealing with denied claims that were inaccurate initially.

Streamline Front Desk and Back Office Workflows

In addition to patient reminders, automation can simplify staff workflows to help minimize burnout. Having a dermatology-specific EHR with an integrated patient portal can facilitate communication between physician and patient to streamline care. Patient portals have been critical to the continuation of care during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing patients to virtually communicate with the practice for things such as requesting medication refills and updating their medical history online. In just a few clicks, staff can review and accept patient-entered data, so you’ll already have the new information in your EHR when the patient arrives for their visit and exam. This gives the physician and staff more time to explore deeper aspects and focus on the important issues without feeling rushed for time.

An all-in-one system can also streamline patient check-out by providing front office staff with information about exactly when the doctor wants to see them next, what medicine they prescribed and any additional questions or follow-ups. Without these features, oftentimes front office staff would end up having to chase the doctor down to confirm details — leading to wasted time for both the patient and staff.

Pathology: Specimen Labeling and Tracking 

As most dermatologists know, tracking pathology by hand in a ledger can be time-consuming — not to mention leaving room for error. A duplicated sample number or smudged label can throw an entire batch of lab specimens out of order, leading to extra work. Automating the pathology process of accessioning and labeling not only helps to avoid opportunities for human error, it can also improve speed and efficiency. An integrated, dermatology-specific EHR can also automatically add lab results into the patient’s medical record, reducing the chance of records being associated with the wrong patient.

Optimized Inventory Management

It’s surprising how many dermatology practices today still rely on manual inventory management. Without automated inventory management, practices might wonder: Was something thrown away because the expiration date passed, or did someone walk away with it?

Having an inventory management solution integrated directly in your EHR software gives you a clear picture into quantities of products so that you can adjust stock in your office and enhance your ability to track and manage products sold and administered during your patient’s next visit. After simply scanning in the bar-code of a product, the system will do the rest and can even provide front office staff with information about products suggested during the patient visit — and their availability at the practice for purchase.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many dermatology practices found that patient demand for cosmetic products, injectables, supply type items (e.g., sutures, bandaids etc.) and fillers, among other products, were significantly reduced. An automated system will reduce the need for manual recounts or the need to check expiration dates, taking the guesswork out of inventory and reducing the manual burden on staff.

Listen to Your Staff

From patient reminders, to streamlining patient paperwork, to improving your tracking, labeling and other administrative tasks in pathology and inventory management, practices that can streamline efficiencies with automation can see big improvements. Listening to your employees and hearing their pain points can help to solve these issues. Regularly checking in with staff to hear how they are doing can open the conversation and dialogue into investing in adequate technology to solve daily pain points. Automation can directly influence productivity and might be the key to unlocking a work-life balance and achieving employee happiness. Creating efficiencies with even the smallest tasks can make a big difference. When a physician can walk out of the office at the same time as the last patient without the burden of outstanding paperwork, that’s a huge win!

See how you can achieve a healthier practice with modmed® Dermatology

Kimberly Schusler

Kimberly Schusler

Financial and Clinical Solutions Engineer

Kimberly Schusler is the Financial & Clinical Solutions Engineer at Modernizing Medicine and a former practice manager and administrator. She has been with Modernizing Medicine for a little over two years, bringing with her 30+ years of experience in the medical field. This experience ranges from Orthopedic and DME sales, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic imaging and as a practice manager for two separate outpatient physician practices.

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