Family physicians work 59 hours per week on average — 45 hours during clinic and 14 hours after clinic — and they interact with 84 patients per week, mostly in the office.1
Clearly, you don’t have time to waste. Three habits can help you focus on the right things and be more efficient.
1. Empower other team members to help you. Look for tasks that do not require your level of knowledge and skills, and train staff members to take on this work. Using standing orders is one way to redistribute the physician workload across the primary care team, allowing the physician to focus on acute care and more complex medical decision making while ensuring that more routine patient needs are met by others. Standing orders can be used for immunizations, screening tests, routine labs, point of care testing for chronic disease monitoring, routine refills for chronic disease medications, and certain referrals. Start with standing orders that have little potential for patient harm if incorrectly implemented (e.g., urine pregnancy test for women presenting with amenorrhea). Once your team masters those orders, you can add new ones.
2. Fix process problems. If a particular process in your practice is frustrating you or slowing you down, don’t keep tolerating it. Process improvement involves defining the series of steps that must be accomplished correctly, in the right order, at the right time, and by the right person to produce the best outcome. Start by mapping your current process. Then look for bottlenecks, errors, unnecessary complexity, or steps that don’t add value, and address them.
3. Make timely decisions. Poorly managed practices often waste significant time and energy discussing the same topics and problems over and over again and never making a decision. On the other hand, successful practices are organized in ways that enable physician leaders and practice managers to make timely decisions, address and solve problems in real time, and take advantage of opportunities quickly. Defining the parameters of authority can help all members of a practice know when they are free to act and when they can entrust the decision making to others.
1. Slideshow: a week in the life of a family physician. FPM. Based on AAFP 2020 Practice Profile Survey. https://www.aafp.org/journals/fpm/multimedia/slideshows/fp-hours-compensation.html#
Posted on April 18, 2022 by FPM Editors
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