Optimize your dermatology practice by prioritizing these 5 tasks

September 17, 2020

Jeremy Youse, M.D., founding partner, medical director and practicing dermatologist at VitalSkin Dermatology discusses which tasks he and other dermatologists want control over to get the most out of practicing and running their offices efficiently each day.

As I’m sure you know, running a business while taking care of patients and being a parent/spouse can be challenging. There’s a lot to take care of in those short 24 hours each day, so I’ve tried to pinpoint which things are important for me to have day-to-day control of, and which things are not as important. That way I can ensure I’m spending my time where I want to, while still doing what’s best for my practice. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and lose sight of the big picture. Prioritizing what’s important in your daily practice helps you optimize your practice.

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Here are a few tasks that are important to me and likely many other dermatologists:

Scheduling
Like most other doctors (and many other professionals in different fields), dermatologists want the freedom and flexibility to control their schedules. With many dermatologists serving as both clinicians and business owners, I know having flexibility isn’t always easy, but our schedules dictate what we’re able to accomplish each day. So we want to structure them to help as many patients as possible, while providing high-quality care. This means ensuring we have the ability to balance time for the patients we want to see, whether it be patients with more complex needs, or those with more common issues who may be helped more quickly through telehealth. Administrative tasks like accounting, marketing, and payroll are also necessities of the business, so it’s important to still incorporate time for those.

We’re also human beings with families, responsibilities and interests outside of the practice. There are plenty of dermatologists that probably work all day and night to fit everything in. But for most of them, I imagine they feel they’re missing out on something – whether it be time with family, time for themselves, or something else important to them. Having the right control over scheduling helps make sure we get the right amount of personal time.

Staffing
We can’t be successful if we don’t have the right team at our side. That being the case, dermatologists want to have control over who is on their team. This starts with finding the right people that align with your goals for the practice, meet expectations for patient care/service, and work well as a team with the rest of your staff. When finding a team member who fits our style, we also want to help them grow personally and professionally. Investing time and energy to help them succeed will ultimately help the practice grow and prosper more. If you can compile a team of growing, like-minded individuals who work well together, day-to-day operations go so much more smoothly.

On the flipside, if one or several of your team members turn out not be a good fit, it’s only going to make day-to-day operations more stressful and challenging, whether they’re not performing their tasks as needed, or disrupting team unity. Knowing when it’s time for a team member to transition to a different role or leave the team is just as important as finding the team members. Most people don’t enjoy firing people, but when it comes to the best interests of our teams and practices, having the ability to shape our teams to our liking is key.

Equipment, supplies and technology
Dermatologists also need the right materials to be successful, so having control over equipment, supplies, and technology is another area of importance; personal preferences and needs play a big part in this. If you want to focus more on surgery or cosmetic services, the supplies and technology you need will be different from a doctor who wants to focus more on general dermatology. For day-to-day efficiency, you want to rely on equipment and supplies you know and trust. Dermatologists also need budgeting control in order to purchase supplies and equipment without losing money. That means always knowing where you stand against your supply budget. If a standard ordering process isn’t being used, it can be easy to purchase too much or too little, and either go over budget or not take advantage of volume purchasing discounts. If your staff is buying outside of your purchasing contracts and paying higher prices, that can also be costly. Having overall control and awareness of spending can mean a lot for the practice’s financial success.

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Clinical preferences
I know that in my practice, there are certain areas of dermatology I want to practice more than others, so having the freedom to do that is important. I’m sure many dermatologists feel the same, whether it’s doing more general care, cosmetic services, or surgery. And this ties into what I mentioned previously about seeing the patients you want to see. If you’re passionate about a certain area and feel strongly about the advantages it can give patients, you want to have the ability to educate yourself in that area so you can be as efficient as possible, and make it a routine part of your day-to-day activity. I have a strong interest in Mohs surgery, but also enjoy the mix and variety of patients I see with medical dermatology problems. Having the options and flexibility to see both surgical and medical dermatology patients is important to me.

Individualized patient treatment planning
Developing a personalized treatment plan tailored for each patient’s unique circumstances is another important aspect of practice. Not all patients are the same or can be helped with a cookie-cutter approach. Having the ability to individualize a patient’s treatment plan for their specific needs helps dermatologists create the best outcome and recovery for them. As dermatologists, we all live in the world of pre-authorizations and insurance denials, but to the fullest extent possible, having control of the treatment plan allows us to help our patients as effectively as possible.

Knowing which aspects of your practice you don’t want or aren’t able to control is just as important as identifying the must-have control points. For many of the dermatologists that I’ve spoken with, these tasks often include some of the business-related tasks of running a practice, like accounting, marketing, policy compliance, HR responsibilities, insurance contract negotiating, and more. Those are all important and necessary parts of day-to-day operations, but still not things many dermatologists are passionate about. After all, most of us enter the field because we enjoy the art and science of dermatology, and helping patients. Most aren’t also seeking to be marketing gurus, accountants, contract negotiators, etc.

There are dermatologists who do like being involved in those things, but if that’s not you, there are options out there to help take those burdens off your plate. Finding the right partner to support you is key. Do your diligence and find a partner that can assist with things you don’t want to do, while helping you grow in the areas you’re passionate about.

What matters most to you? Do you firmly control those areas? If not, what obstacles are you facing? If it’s dealing with burdens that take you away from the things you want, should you seek support? And if so, where can you find that support?

Also, often our most productive changes in practice occur after some downtime. Giving yourself the headspace to reflect on how you have been spending your time will help you prioritize which aspects of your practice are most important for you to control. I know that giving myself scheduled downtime every several months to regularly revisit my practice priorities helps me feel that I’m taking the necessary steps to do what is best for my practice.

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All in all, if you’re not doing so already, take the necessary steps to focus on what matters most to you each day.