Practice Pearls


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Fam Pract Manag. 2008 Jul-Aug;15(7):44.

Promote your office with an electronic marquee

I purchased an electronic marquee for about $100 at a local membership warehouse and placed it in the window of my front office. We use it to promote preventive care such as mammograms (“Have you had your mammogram this year?”) and vaccines (“When was your last tetanus shot?”).

It can also be programmed to display office hours, refill request policies (“Please allow 48 hours for your refill request to be processed”) or even to wish a patient or staff member “happy birthday.” It has been a fun and affordable marketing tool.

Advocating for Medicare payment reform


After reading “Preparing for a Medicare Fee Cut” [May 2008], I decided to send a letter to my Medicare patients to inform them of the payment crisis and ask them to contact their representatives to encourage reform. Where should their letters and e-mails be sent? Also, what percentage of the Medicare budget represents physicians' payments?

Patients should send their letters and e-mails to their U.S. senators and representatives. They can identify these people and find their contact information through the AAFP “Speak Out” advocacy program at You can find sample letters and other tools to help you advocate for Medicare reform on the AAFP Web site as well.

In 2006, Medicare benefit payments totaled approximately $402 billion. That same year, Medicare payments for physician and supplier services totaled approximately $85 billion, or roughly 21 percent of the Medicare budget.

Use a virtual reminder system to prompt follow-up care

When I perform procedures at our busy community health center, I use a virtual tickler file to remind myself of needed follow-up care. To do this I use the Microsoft Outlook e-mail program, which came with my computer.

I create a “calendar event” in Outlook with the pertinent information, including the patient's name, medical record number and contact information. As scheduled (one week after a colposcopy, for example), I receive an e-mail alert that prompts me to access the patient record for the results and initiate any follow-up care that may be needed.

It is a simple system, free of clutter and messy paperwork.

Manage ingrown toenails to prevent surgery

I often see young patients with ingrown toenails. I place them on low-dose antibiotics for four or five days to resolve the inflammation. Then at a return visit, I create a cotton wick that I gently force under the nail edge with a toothpick. I place the wick at a 45 degree angle. The patient simply replaces the wick every two to four days until the nail has grown out. This often prevents surgery.

Introduce care team members by name

At new patient visits in our office, the doctors introduce the other members of the clinical care team to patients by name. For example, “This is Susan. Hers is the voice you're going to hear on the phone when you call me with a question or when we call you with test results.”

This helps patients feel the doctor's presence even when the doctor isn't directly involved in future interactions.


Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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