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How Technology Is Automating Patient And Doctor Interaction

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew C. Frankel, COO and co-founder of Pennsylvania Dermatology Partners, a PA based group dermatology practice with 12 locations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Dr. Daniel Shurman and I worked together at a previous Dermatology group which had some good ideas about using technology, but some challenges with their business infrastructure. We left to start Pennsylvania Dermatology Partners with the intent to leverage technology and efficiency to provide excellent medical care and customer service leveraging technology to make it as efficient as possible.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Specialty Medicine has been one of the last sectors where Doctors had the financial and operational flexibility to go it alone in solo practice. Since 2010 or so there has been an increasing interest in the Dermatology sector from the Wall Street through private equity and VC based acquisitions. Doctors who are struggling with increased complexity of billing and government regulations, or nervously watching growing operating costs and shrinking margins, have increasingly sold to investment groups to find the freedom and security to continue to be doctors in a changing industry. Our formula has allowed us the freedom, financial success and flexibility to do the same without any outside capital. By being efficient and using technology, we have been able not only to stay ahead of the challenges of billing, regulation and compliance, but to offer better patient care and increased access to information for our patients. In addition, we have been able to extend this opportunity to many young doctors who are coming to join us looking for a model such as ours, which sits between the two more traditional models of specialty medicine.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

Our model tries to blend the best benefits of solo practice and group practice to provide a significantly advantaged environment for each doctor to practice in. Each doctor has their own space and the freedom to treat patients in the way they see fit, like they are in solo practice, but we have a centralized administration and back office which gives us scale and efficiency on communications, negotiations with payers, procurement, and other critical processes and cost centers. We are never content to stay where we are and are always looking for the next little edge in technology, whether in the exam room, the marketing front or in the billing process. AdvancedMD has been a great partner in that.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

Yes, we are migrating our entire enterprise off a Windows-based infrastructure to a Linux infrastructure, which is going to give us a great boost in stability, access to more cutting edge technology, better security and allow us to scale more easily. It is also saving tremendous cost, both in software licenses, downtime, and the ability to repurpose old hardware with lighter and faster software environments.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Listen to your staff, they are on the front lines and often have creative ideas about what the organization needs. Don’t be afraid to try something completely new and different. You can always go back to what was working before. Medicine is all about innovation on the medical delivery side, but on the business side, the approach to medicine has been archaic and behind the times in using technology to leverage the best efficiency and best care.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

We have had the good fortune to evaluate and acquire practices from dozens of dermatologists over the years. Each practice has something they are doing exceptionally well, or a different way of looking at things, or handling a process. We learn something every time that a practice gets added to the enterprise for everyone’s benefit.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Besides supporting a local charity, we have a very flexible self-pay plan so that we are able to help many uninsured and underinsured patients who have been turned away from some of the bigger corporate medical systems. We are also very proud to have created over a hundred good jobs with our growth in the last few years, and hope to continue the process.

Can you share the top five ways that technology is changing the experience of going to the doctor? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Given today’s consumer-oriented mentality about healthcare, patients want and need an automated process for all interactions with their medical providers. Here are five new tools that are changing how patients interface with their providers:

1. AdvancedMD’s online patient scheduling: This technology is new for healthcare practices themselves (vs. outside paid services) and allows patients to both schedule and cancel their own appointments without calling the office or being there to do it in person. Pennsylvania Dermatology Partners has acquired 3% new patients since the beginning of 2018 with this technology and this continues to grow month over month. People schedule appointments when phones are busy and at after-office hours such as 1 am.

2. AdvancedReputation management from AdvancedMD: Because patients often turn to Google to help evaluate a doctor, this technology interfaces with Google Reviews and asks a patient to review their in-office or telemedicine visit right after it takes place. If a review is not entirely positive, the practice has an opportunity to reach out to the patient and put things right. For e.g., Pennsylvania Dermatology Partners received 153 reviews in a span of one week, out which 132 were 5 stars.

3. 24-hour access to information and communications for the doctor and the patient through AdvancedMD’s patient portal and the many ways a practice can integrate the portal into the website, social media and other online channels while remaining HIPAA compliant.

4. Automated reminders and messages: patients can receive a text, call or email according to their communications preferences to inform them of critical test results or prompt them to log into the patient portal to review important information. These are capabilities which used to be out of reach for small and medium sized doctor practices but are now readily available.

5. Secure electronic protected health information (PHI) sharing allows a doctor to share data with a patient and his or her entire care team while still keeping it safe and compliant with all HIPAA regulations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

I believe it was Einstein who said “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” We love to try new, and we make plenty of mistakes but we own them, learn from them and move forward stronger and better for it.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Well, I am very interested in the newly announced effort by Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos to transform healthcare. They are three incredibly brilliant minds in leveraging money, finding and creating value, and in being ahead of the curve on technology by using it in new ways. Those are core approaches for our business as well, and I believe we could learn a tremendous amount from them, and also share quite a bit in how to shape the future of healthcare from an insider’s perspective. We would be delighted to host them all (or any of them) to a working brunch!


Special thanks to Jilea Hemmings, CEO & Co-Founder of Best Tyme. Jilea is running a series on how technology is impacting healthcare.

 

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