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Fam Pract Manag. 2005;12(9):64-72

Give your waiting area a makeover

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make your office more welcoming for your patients and more productive for you and your staff.

  • Have your upholstery professionally cleaned every six months.

  • Get rid of dead plants.

  • Update your magazine subscriptions.

  • Remove clutter, for example, by having reception staff limit the number of personal items they keep in the front office.

  • Use table lamps instead of overhead lighting in waiting areas, and use wall sconces in hallways.

  • Offer a variety of seating options because one style of chair might not be comfortable for everyone.

  • If you can afford new flooring, consider carpet for the waiting area. It creates a homier atmosphere and cuts down on noise.

Discounts for self-pay patients

Eight tips for physician buy-in

Making the case for organizational change or for embarking on a new project is an essential skill, but it can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to get buy-in from other physicians over whom you have no real authority. These eight tips can help:

  1. Treat your physician colleagues as you would treat your patients: listen and empathize.

  2. Create opportunities for them to voice concerns and feel heard.

  3. Respect their time by scheduling meetings during times when they are most available.

  4. Quantify the information whenever possible.

  5. Help them see the relationship between what you’re proposing and improved performance and quality.

  6. Communicate frequently about the goals and the status of the project.

  7. Address skepticism directly.

  8. Reward and recognize their contributions.

Make conflict productive

If your definition of a good meeting is one at which everyone agrees, you might be shrinking from conflict in the rush to achieve consensus. The result is often artificial consensus and unresolved conflict that breeds anxiety and frustration.

A more productive strategy would be to encourage people to challenge important issues. Then, don’t be afraid to throw yourself into the middle of disputes rather than glossing over them. The best path might be through the conflict rather than around it.

Secrets to effective physician-administrator partnerships

Trust is the key ingredient in successful physician-administrator collaboration. Here’s how one Mayo Clinic management team suggests building and maintaining strong, trusting partnerships:

  • Spend time together: Meet regularly, and be available for quick, informal conversations.

  • Share information freely and promptly.

  • Provide timely, constructive feedback.

  • Discuss each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • Recognize your personality differences.

  • Ask hard questions of one another, and listen carefully to the answers.

  • Take training courses together.

  • Support one another publicly.

  • Remember that the needs of the patient come first.

Liability and administrative surcharges

Stay on top of third-party payers

To minimize payment delays and maximize reimbursement, your practice’s billing process needs to operate at optimum efficiency:

  • Use your billing software to create reports showing the average time between the date of service and the date of claim submission, and between the date of claim submission and the date you receive payment. The reports will help you to identify the source of recurring delays.

  • Create a grid that shows key characteristics of your major plans, such as co-pays, precertification requirements, participating laboratories and noncovered services. Post it by the phone for easy access.

  • Make sure your staff verifies patients’ demographic and insurance information when they arrive.

  • If your office has more than one biller, assign a couple of your payers to each of them and ask them to become “experts.”

  • Develop procedures for tracking payment denials and verifying payers’ adherence to their contracts. This will save you time and money, and identify payers who may not be playing by the rules.


Practice Pearls presents the best advice on effective, efficient practice operations and patient care drawn from the medical and business literature, along with tips developed from your experience. Send us your best pearl (250 words or less), and if we publish it, you’ll earn $25. We also welcome questions for our Q&A section. Send your pearls and your questions to us at


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Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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