Pathology is changing so quickly that anatomic pathologists need to add new skills to be successful in a clinical and business environment that is now more intensely competitive, particularly in two ways. First, regional and national pathology firms are raising the bar on clinical services in many subspecialties of anatomic pathology. Second, anatomic pathologists must have a better understanding of the business and financial skills required to succeed in today’s laboratory medicine marketplace.

One group on the forefront of these developments is the American Pathology Foundation (APF). “It’s no longer sufficient for a pathologist to come in every day and simply look at slides and make accurate diagnoses of biologic processes,” explained Luke Perkocha, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco and chair of the APF’s conference program committee. “Demands for higher quality clinical services, declining reimbursement, and more intense competition for specimen referrals now require every pathology group practice to have skilled leaders. These pathologist business leaders need to understand the fundamentals of business and management. Just as medicine needs physicians who take the whole patient into account, pathology practices need leaders who take the whole business into account and think on a strategic leadership level.”

To give pathologists and lab directors an opportunity to learn the skills necessary to compete effectively today, the APF is conducting the Pathology Leadership Conference on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at the Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Perkocha noted that the day is organized around four specific areas of emphasis, with sessions led by experienced leaders of pathology groups from different areas of the country:

  1. Marketing. In this session, George Miaoulis, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, at the University of Maine, will speak on, “Advanced Concepts in Marketing Pathology Professional Services: It’s Not Just a ‘Lab Test’ Anymore.”
  2. Finance. Two speakers from large pathology practices will address pathology billing issues. Del Berryman, Executive Director of Brown & Associates, in Houston, Texas, will discuss, “Evaluating and Selecting an Outside Billing Company-What Matters Most.” In the same session, Bob De la Torre, Practice Administrator at Pathology Services of Arizona, in Tempe, will discuss “Insider Expertise on Billing-Do it Yourself-Benchmark your Results.”
  3. Leadership. Pathology groups need an effective plan for succession, recruiting, and retaining skilled pathologists. Eric A. Hanson, Ph.D., Executive Consultant of Development Dimensions International, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will speak about, “Leadership Succession: Are you ready? What you should be thinking about now.” He will be followed by, Tedd Taskey, Associate Vice President, Pathology, at Slone Partners, in Denver, Colorado, discussing “Recruiting and Retaining Your Next Pathologist: Avoiding Expensive Mistakes.”
  4. Strategic business planning. Pathology practice mergers, consolidations, and integration of regional services will be discussed by Jeffery B. Drummond, an attorney with the law firm of Jackson Walker LLP, in Dallas, Texas, in his session on “Pathology Practice Mergers: New Imperatives and New Models.” Caitlin Cameron, CEO, of CellNetix Pathology & Laboratories, in Seattle, Washington, will address, “Pathology Practice Mergers: Smart Thinking in the Trenches and the Development of ‘Best Practices’.”

Founded in 1959, the American Pathology Foundation was probably the nation’s first pathology organization with a specific focus on business, management, and financial resources that would allow pathologists to succeed and prosper. Thus, it often has early and valid perspectives on unfolding trends within the anatomic pathology profession.

Perkocha’s message about the need for anatomic pathologists to support leadership skills within the pathology group practice setting is consistent with Dark Daily’s observations about unfolding changes in the anatomic pathology marketplace. With genetic medicine on the horizon, Wall Street and the national lab companies believe anatomic pathology will be hugely profitable because of new molecular assays. Community hospital-based pathology groups must respond to these strategic threats if they are to remain both clinically and financially viable. One way to acquire the necessary leadership and business skills is for pathology groups to send their business-minded partners to conferences such as the APF’s Pathology Leadership Conference.

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