Beth Boyd, RN

Ongoing physician education is essential for running a successful practice and improving patient care. With new technologies for diagnosing and treating breast cancer emerging every year, pre-conference workshops – like those at the annual meetings of the Society for Surgical Oncology and the American Society of Breast Surgeons – provide a great forum for physicians to learn from leading faculty while getting hands-on experience.

As organizer of many of these pre-meeting courses, Beth Boyd, RN, discusses why surgeons should be trained in advanced imaging modalities, what courses offer the best return on investment, and how certification can impact reimbursement.

Why is ongoing education so important for physicians?

Medicine changes so rapidly, I think all physicians need continuing education to be brought up to speed on new technology and to ensure they’re offering their patients the very best care. In the early 1990s, [breast surgeon] Dr. Richard Fine and I began teaching a training course on stereotactic breast biopsy primarily for surgeons. Stereotactic biopsy was new back then, but all the training at the time was focused on radiologists – there were no courses for surgeons. So we started teaching our course several times a year, and eventually incorporated breast ultrasound as it gained acceptance in the United States.

In addition to teaching individual courses, we also organize workshops at the annual conferences of the major professional societies, including the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the Society of Surgical Oncology.

Why do your workshops offer a combination of didactic and hands-on training?

For the past 20 years, all our courses have utilized this combination – usually a half day of lecture followed by a half day of hands-on workshop. I think it’s critical that physicians have exposure to both kinds of training. The didactic portion gives them a good, solid foundation of knowledge before they actually get to practice using the technology. Take our introduction to breast ultrasound- in the lecture, we explain the principles behind ultrasound technology, how it should be utilized, what normal breast anatomy and abnormal lesions looks like under ultrasound, and how to perform an ultrasound scan and an ultrasound-guided breast biopsy Then they take that knowledge to the hands-on portion, where they work with faculty members and applications specialists to perform ultrasound on live models and biopsies on breast phantoms.

The workshops participants are given a lot of time to learn how to use the technology, to ask questions of the faculty and get a really good hands-on experience. This whole approach is designed to give physicians enough knowledge and experience to get them to a point where their comfortable enough to begin introducing the technology into their practice to gain further experience.

Do workshops like these help breast surgeons run a successful practice?

I think the workshops are valuable because they provide surgeons with quality continuing education where they can be brought up to speed on the latest and greatest technology. Whether or not they choose to implement the technology in their own practice, they at least have exposure to it.

In particular, I think attending pre-conference workshops followed by professional societies’ meetings, like the American Society of Breast Surgeons’ annual meeting, is very helpful. It’s a great opportunity for physicians to learn, and the general sessions are designed to hit on all aspects of running a practice while keeping patient care in mind. Aside from learning about new technology, there are debates on existing technology, as well as the business aspects of running a practice, like reimbursement and coding.

Overall, there is a lot of information to be exchanged – and not just from the workshops and conferences. I think the biggest benefit is just the ability to interact with and learn from other surgeons. It’s a great forum to get feedback from their peers, to share problems and solutions.

How do the pre-conference workshops help physicians adopt new and emerging technologies?

It’s all about education. We allow industry to participate in the workshops, which is unique, but because the workshops are CME courses, we keep it strictly educational without any selling. It’s a great forum for introducing physicians to new technologies in a single setting. Because the workshops take place prior to the meetings, it gives the attendees the opportunity to get a broad overview of the available technology, then if they have further questions they can go to the exhibits and talk to the vendors at a deeper level while the information is still fresh in their minds. I think it helps them utilize their time at the conference better because they can really zero in on what technologies they want to explore further, instead of just being bombarded with information. In my opinion, this helps physicians come away from the entire meeting with a clear idea of what technology they want and how to best incorporate it into their practice over the next 12 months.

The American Society of Breast Surgeons offers breast ultrasound and stereotactic certification programs. What value do these programs provide?

I think there is a lot of value, both for the physicians and the patients. If a surgeon is going to offer these advanced imaging modalities, additional training is absolutely essential. The certification programs require a designated number of CME, so it guarantees the physicians are getting the education and training they need. In addition to CME , the surgeons must demonstrate experience and skill by submitting the number and length of time they have been performing ultrasound and stereotactic procedures, examples of procedures they have performed and by passing intensive examinations. The ultimate goal of the ASBS certification programs is to improve quality which is, of course, a very positive thing for their patients.

For the physician, certification can also help with reimbursement. Often payers will pay or deny claims for imaging procedures based on the medical specialty most commonly performing those procedures and the established quality programs. Many payers now recognize the value of the ASBS certification, and therefore acknowledge that surgeons are qualified to perform both breast ultrasound and stereotactic breast biopsy procedures. Therefore the ASBS certification programs have begun to ensure that surgeons are getting paid for the procedures they’re performing.

With the growing number of surgeons who are interested in the ASBS certification programs and in an effort to assist surgeons with the process, there is now a prep course available to help physicians prepare for their certification. Between this and the preconference workshops – which are almost always sold out – we’re seeing a definite increase in the number of physicians who are taking their ongoing education very seriously.

Beth Boyd, RN is the Administrator and Clinical Director at Advanced Breast Care of Marietta, Georgia. Additionally, she is the owner of Gentle Med Solutions. Beth Boyd is the Vice Chair of the Board of The American Society of Breast Surgeons Foundation.

The Society for Surgical Oncology 2011 Cancer Symposium will take place on March 2-5 in San Antonio, Texas. To learn more about the preliminary program, including the hands-on workshops, click here.

Registration is now open for the American Society of Breast Surgeons 12th Annual Meeting, April 27-May 1 in Washington, D.C. Register by March 15, 2011 to receive a discount. Click here to learn more about the pre-meeting courses available at this year’s meeting.