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Fam Pract Manag. 2006;13(3):81-82

Create a coding resource guide

Have you and your staff ever had a coding question and wondered, “Where do we go for help?” A coding resource guide can help you, your office staff and fellow physicians find answers to frequently asked coding questions.

To put together a coding resource guide, have one of your staff members hunt down crucial coding resources and store them in one location where they can be accessed easily. For example, you’ll probably want to include a copy of either the 1995 or 1997 Documentation Guidelines for Evaluation and Management Services, which you can download at You should also have up-to-date editions of the Current Procedural Technology (CPT) manual, the ICD-9 manual and the HCPCS manual. Other helpful resources might include a medical dictionary, Medicaid and Medicare Part-B provider manuals, and any coding templates or policies that your practice has developed.

Benchmark for success

How do you know whether your practice is succeeding? A good way to find out is to set benchmarks for your practice, measure your performance on a regular basis and track those measures over time. For example, you may set a goal of achieving a 95-percent satisfaction rate among your employees. With an annual employee survey, you can determine if your practice is meeting its goal.

You should also set goals related to patient satisfaction, revenues and patient retention. Don’t hesitate to adjust your goals if needed so they remain relevant to your practice, reasonable and achievable.

Allot salaries and distributions correctly

Promote professionalism

Defining professionalism in your practice is an important step in preventing inappropriate conduct. Have your practice’s physicians and office staff work together to determine what behaviors they define as professional. Here are a few examples:

  • Give and accept feedback gracefully;

  • When someone does good work, acknowledge it;

  • Apologize when you make a mistake;

  • Give thoughtful suggestions that build on the ideas of others;

  • If you disagree with an idea, make sure your argument is well-reasoned.

Reduce your malpractice risk

When you see a patient with a particularly troubling problem or an unclear diagnosis (e.g., abdominal pain or an unexplained fever in a child), consider calling the patient later that day or the next day to follow up on the situation. Most patients will be surprised and pleased that you took the time to check on them. Not only will this strengthen the bond you have with your patients, but it also will alert you early on if the patient is not doing well or needs further work-up, thus reducing your risk of malpractice.


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 fewer), 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


Practice Pearls presents readers' advice on practice operations and patient care, along with tips drawn from the literature. Submit a pearl (250 words or less) to FPM at

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Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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