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Fam Pract Manag. 2006;13(4):70-73

Know when to ask for help

If you haven’t figured out a tough case within three visits, get a consultant. Two brains are often better than one, and a timely referral will reduce your liability risk in a malpractice case.

Send reminders for needed lab work

When we review lab results for a patient with chronic illness, we write up a new lab slip that we file for three months or until the patient needs to be checked again. At the beginning of each month, our medical assistant checks the file for that month and sends the lab slip to the patient.

Encourage appropriate dress in your office

Getting staff to comply with an office dress code can be hard. If you’d like to implement a new dress code or you’d like to enforce the current one, keep the following in mind:

  • Effectively communicate to your staff the reason for the dress code. Let them know that you want your practice to convey a clean, neat and professional image.

  • Give specific guidelines for your staff to follow. If skirts need to be knee length and men must wear collared shirts, say so. Don’t just say skirts are acceptable and men should wear dress shirts, as these general guidelines can be misinterpreted.

  • Speak one-on-one with staff members who are not complying. Before speaking with each employee, consider why they may not be complying (for example, they can’t afford a new wardrobe or want to show personality) and think through how you might respond. Discussing attire can be a sensitive issue, so acknowledge that before giving guidance.

  • Be an example for your staff. The best way to let your staff know what you expect is to show them by following the dress code yourself.

ED work and opting out of Medicare

Promote patient education with podcasts

For the past six months, I’ve been experimenting with a new way to offer patient education: podcasting. Podcasts are audio recordings that are available on the Web. Patients can either download my podcasts from my Web site at and listen from their computer or they can store the recording on an mp3 player and listen to it later. My podcasts, which are free for listeners, are presented in a radio talk show format with a different health focus each week. For my first podcast, I talked about healthy living, and my most recent recording concerned staying healthy while traveling. They are usually 15 to 20 minutes long. Patients are able to listen when it is convenient for them, and they only listen to what they want. The response from my patients has been positive.

My decision to begin podcasting came after a routine conversation with one of my patients revealed that he had the technical skills to create a podcast. He volunteered to help get my podcasts from the recording studio (my office) to the Web and even acts as the interviewer each time I record a new podcast.

If you’re not lucky enough to discover a podcasting expert in your patient panel, CNET provides a step-by-step guide to creating a podcast at–11293_7–6246557–1.html. Family physicians with computer skills might enjoy the challenge of putting a podcast together, and patients will certainly appreciate the convenient and educational final product.

Show your appreciation for your staff

In family medicine, a practice’s most important resource is its staff, so remember Nurses’ Day, Secretaries’ Day and special occasions in their lives. Have a small party or just bring dessert to the office. When you do the small stuff, it lets your staff know how much you appreciate them and that you consider them an integral part of making the office run smoothly and efficiently.


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


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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