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Fam Pract Manag. 2006;13(7):77-78

Simplify your phone service

I got rid of my answering service years ago. At the end of the day, or at lunch if the phones aren’t covered, a member of my staff forwards the office phone to my cell phone. This way, I can either answer the phone, which is usually a pleasant surprise to the patient, or just let the call go to voice mail if necessary. Retrieving my messages takes less time on my cell phone than with the answering service, and I save about $80 a month.

Initiating background checks on potential employees

Remind patients to get A1C checks

A handy way to remind patients with diabetes to come in for an A1C measurement twice a year is to get them on “diabetes savings time.” Our patients have learned that when we change our clocks in April and October, it is time for A1C checks. These are particularly good months for providing this service, especially for elderly patients, because the weather is mild and because October is flu shot time. These months also avoid other predictably busy periods, such as cold and flu season, school physical time, etc.

Manage by walking around

Take a few moments during the day to seek out and speak with each member of your staff individually. Give them recognition, reminders, focused praise or focused feedback as necessary. Periodic staff meetings have their purpose, but the “constant tending of the garden” keeps your staff on track and you in touch with a minimal amount of time and effort.

Host a tailgate with drug reps

Rather than meeting with pharmaceutical reps individually, I decided to meet with several at the same time – at a lunchtime “tailgate” I organized in our parking lot. Each rep brought one food item, and my staff and I hopped from car to car filling our plates and talking with the reps about their products. I encouraged them to dress up their vehicles in their favorite team colors. The “Best Dressed” vehicle won a prize. Not only is this more fun for everyone, but it also makes better use of our time.

Encourage vacations

Emphasize the value of vacations to your hard-working employees. Vacations help employees clear their minds and do their job well. Discourage employees from integrating work into their vacation. A full commitment to relaxing and recharging bolsters their performance once they return to work.

Follow up with your patients

At the end of the day, my LPN prints out my schedule for that day, and I highlight the names of patients who warrant a follow-up call. The next day, she calls on my behalf to check on these patients, asking whether their condition is improving and whether they require additional follow-up. She loves to do it, the patients are thrilled, and it makes me look like a better physician.

Create templates for study orders

My practice used our electronic health record (EHR) system to develop templates for ordering lab work, DEXA scans and mammograms. Each template includes specifi c instructions, the reason the test was ordered and phone numbers to call to schedule the studies. We generate an order for the patient that includes his or her name and the date, and we can add other patient information to the record as needed. We save a copy with the EHR and print a copy that we hand to the patient at the end of the visit, along with a charge slip. This helps keep our practice on top of health maintenance issues.


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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