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Fam Pract Manag. 2009 Mar-Apr;16(2):34.

Expedite refill requests

A simple way to reduce the time required for staff to process prescription refill requests is to encourage patients to call their pharmacy directly to request the refill.

The pharmacy faxes us a refill request that lists the medication as it was last prescribed and the date on which it was last filled. We can then quickly and simply check the pharmacy record against the paper chart in our office to verify the information.

This keeps our staff from having to take the message, pull the chart and give it to the provider, and it reduces the number of faxes to the pharmacy.

Buy used computers for your exam rooms

When I set out to computerize my office’s exam rooms, I spent less than $400 per room by purchasing used computers.

The latest and most expensive computers come with much more functionality than we need in our exam rooms. (I don’t see the need to offer video games to patients while they wait.)

My exam rooms are equipped with used Dell computers (Dell OptiPlex GX270 and GX280) running Windows XP operating systems. I’ve found used models available for $250 or less online at

Encourage patients to carry ECG records with them

I advise my patients who have a history of heart disease to carry a copy of their electrocardiograms with them.

In the event of an emergency, the baseline electrocardiogram would be an invaluable source of comparative data for the attending physician.

Orient new team members efficiently

In our practice, many new students and residents arrive each month and need some orientation to our office.

To simplify this process, a committee put together an orientation checklist that reminds the staff member providing the orientation what to cover and enables him or her to document when individual items have been completed by signing off on the checklist. It typically takes a half-day or the equivalent to complete the orientation. We ask the new employee to sign at the bottom indicating that the orientation has been completed.

Looking for EMR recommendations


My practice is trying to decide which electronic medical record (EMR) system to purchase. Can you offer any recommendations?

Although FPM doesn’t endorse one particular system, we can suggest a couple of resources that may help you make a decision.

Check out the most recent version of FPM’s EMR user-satisfaction survey. This report reflects the opinions of 422 of your fellow physicians. The survey asked respondents to rate their systems in several areas including functionality, ease of use and flexibility, service and support, cost, security and interoperability. An updated version of the survey will be fielded this summer, and the results will be published in early 2010.

The AAFP’s Center for Health Information Technology offers EMR reviews written by Academy members who currently use EMR systems. The reviews rate the systems on a five-point scale for criteria such as price, quality and ease of use. The reviews are available to Academy members.


Practice Pearls presents readers' advice on practice operations and patient care, along with tips drawn from the literature. Send us your best pearl (250 words of less), and you'll earn $25 if we publish it. We also welcome questions for our Q&A section. Send pearls, questions, and comments to, or add your comments below.


Copyright © 2009 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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