CEO SUMMARY: Pathologists at Knoxville Pathology Group are adding to their reputation for progressive business thinking. In addition to a regionalization strategy—which includes participation in Pathology Service Associates—in January they became one of the first local pathology practices to offer physician-clients access to pathology test results via the Internet.
UNTIL RECENTLY, LEADERS in the move to offer Web-accessed services to referring physicians were primarily public lab and pathology companies.
That changed just eight weeks ago, when Knoxville Pathology Group began offering Web-accessed pathology test reporting to its physician- clients. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, the seven-pathologist practice went live with its system after two years of development work.
Capital And Hard Work
“Don’t let anybody tell you that this is an easy thing to pull off,” said Paul Johnson, DBA (Doctor of Business Administration), who is Chief Operating Officer for the group. “It took persistence, capital and a lot of hard work to get to the point where we can offer the service of accessing pathology reports via the Internet.
“It was early this January when we began to introduce this service to our office-based physician-clients and their staffs,” he added. “So far the reception has been positive. We have 12 clients now using this feature. Moreover, our customer service staff and sales people have good success at converting offices where they demonstrate this new service.”
Knoxville Pathology Group (KPG) is using an ASP (application service provider) software product developed by Dynamic Healthcare Technologies, Inc. (DHT). The host computer for the ASP is maintained by KPG and is located in their office.
“We were an alpha and beta development site for DHT’s ‘CoMed for Results™ ’,” stated David Jones, who manages information systems and human resources at KPG. “We worked with DHT for almost one year before this product was ready to launch into the marketplace.”
Promising Early Feedback
Although it’s still premature to accurately gauge the impact of Web-accessed lab test reporting on both KPG’s client physicians and staffs, early feedback is positive. “Doctors and their staffs like it because it’s both simple and fast to use,” noted Jones. “They get a speedy connection and a straightforward inquiry that allows them to get what they want without fuss or complication.”
So far, Web-accessed pathology results reporting hasn’t caused major changes in the daily habits of physicians and their staffs. KPG never expected that it would. “We’ve always viewed this as an important part of our information management strategy,” said Johnson.
“To remain competitive, pathology groups both big and small must become more sophisticated in how they create clinical information, share it, and convert it into added-value knowledge for clinicians,” he noted. “KPG’s information management is both internal and external.
“Internally, our investments are boosting the productivity and effectiveness of our pathologists,” Johnson observed. “Externally, our information management capabilities position us to be an added-value asset to our healthcare community, including health systems, hospitals, physicians’ offices, payers, and patients.
“In the short term, Web-accessed results reporting probably costs us more than we can directly recover, but in the long run Knoxville Pathology Group has set a competitive benchmark that competing groups must match,” declared Johnson.
Ready To Connect
“More importantly,” he added, “hospitals and health systems in the Knoxville region are actively building new information-management systems to link with their physicians, payers, and patients. Knoxville Pathology Group intends to be ready to connect into these systems and add value.”
THE DARK REPORT believes that KPG has correctly recognized a trend which has gone unaddressed by many pathology groups. Hospitals and integrated health networks (IHN) are actively developing sophisticated intranets and information management systems. Their goal is to improve the flow of clinical and operational information.
Despite the fact that anatomic pathology information plays a key role in hospital and IHN activities, few pathology group practices have addressed the way these new information systems will shift the balance of power within their local healthcare community.
Dr. Johnson believes that it will be another 12 to 24 months before the larger health systems in Knoxville successfully roll out such enhanced information management systems. When these hospitals do, Knoxville Pathology Group intends to be ready to connect in ways that give its pathologists leverage and
Details of Web Reporting At Knoxville Path Group
- Software: KPG was an alpha and beta development site for DHT’s “CoMed for Results.” KPG is the host and maintains the server for the ASP on-site.
- Internet Connectivity: KPG’s server connects to the Internet by a T-1 line.
- Physician Office Connectivity: Any broadband access or dial-up modem can connect to KPG’s ASP server.
- Test Result Availability: Almost real time—within five minutes of pathologist sign-out, case results are available for access via Web inquiry, including photo images.
- No Additional Fees: KPG offers this service to physician clients at no additional charge. KPG also leaves existing reporting arrangements in place.
Knoxville Pathology Group Offers Some Dos and Don’ts
AS AN “EARLY ADOPTER” IN WEB-ACCESSED PATHOLOGY RESULTS REPORTING, Knoxville Pathology Group has learned some valuable management lessons. THE DARK REPORT asked Chief Operating Officer Paul Johnson, DBA, and Information Systems/Human Resource Manager David Jones to share some basic “do’s and don’ts.” Their answers were revealing.
Do know what you’re getting into before you start. Paul Johnson: “Do your homework before you commit money and people. Understand exactly what it will take to make your project successful. Learn what the pitfalls are and have contingency plans ready. For example, do you want to control the host for your ASP on site? Even if you decide to have a remote-host ASP, you’ll still need someone in your operation who is Web-literate and can ‘mind the store’ to keep you operational.”
Don’t ignore the difficulties of the marketplace. David Jones: “My background is in computers and information management. But even I was surprised at the challenges of: a) getting Knoxville Pathology Group wired
into the Internet; and b) dealing with the general lack of sophistication about the Internet within physicians’ offices. These are considerable obstacles, but they can be overcome with good planning and execution.”
Do give priority to security and privacy. David Jones: “Security and privacy are paramount concerns. Emphasize solutions which keep you in control, keep you in full compliance with laws and regulations, and give clients confidence and trust in your pathology group.”
Do invest in connectivity to the Internet. Paul Johnson: “If your pathology group is moving to Web-based services, take care to invest in a reliable broadband connection to the Internet. There are many options, including T-1, DSL, ADSL, and others. After considerable study, we opted to use T-1 lines to connect our pathology group to the Internet.”
Don’t skimp on expertise. David Jones: “It’s important to put knowledgeable experts on your implementation team. Hire the best. For smaller pathology groups that can’t afford a full-time information manager, select a
qualified consultant to help with implementation and engage them to return on a regular basis to perform updates and upgrades”
Do use customer service and sales reps to introduce your service. Paul Johnson: “You can build the better mousetrap, but if no one knows it’s out there, you won’t sell many. Web-accessed pathology test results reporting is a beneficial feature and physicians like it. Use service reps and sales people to introduce your new service to both clients and non-clients. Your pathology group should generate increased case referrals because of this sales and marketing.”