brand logo

Fam Pract Manag. 2006;13(8):80-83

Explain the benefits of pneumonia immunization

If you want to encourage your patients to get a pneumococcal vaccination, try opening the conversation with: “If I gave you a dollar and told you that you could buy 23 things with it, would you consider that a good deal? That is what you get with the pneumonia shot – it is one shot that gives you coverage of 23 tough germs.” This metaphor conveys the importance of an adult pneumococcal vaccination in a way that is informative and positive and can be understood by a wide variety of patients, even those with low literacy levels.

Coordinate refills and appointments

For patients with chronic illnesses, I have found that giving refills for a whole year invites patients to delay or miss any intervening follow-up appointments. It works best to give them just enough refills to make it to their next scheduled appointment.

Hold a staff appreciation lunch

As part of our staff appreciation week, the physicians and nurse practitioners served our staff lunch. We set dining tables with linens (white sheets), flowers and the menus we had printed. The providers were garbed in aprons and armed with notepads as they took orders, served and cleared tables. It was silly and fun, and our staff liked being waited on by us for a change!

Use your PDA as a reminder tool

I use my Palm personal digital assistant’s (PDA) “To Do” function to write myself ticklers for crucial patient follow-ups (e.g., follow-up visits, repeat labs or tests, or follow-up phone calls). To do this, I enter the patient’s name and medical record number as a “To Do” on a future date. When the date arrives, my Palm PDA reminds me to check the chart and follow up accordingly.

HIPAA and filling out forms in the waiting room

Write it where you’ll need it

I find it helpful to record my patients’ glucometer and test strip information with their medication list. This makes the information readily available when it is time for refills.

Let your patients do their jobs

We used to spend a lot of time contacting patients’ pharmacy insurance providers in an effort to get preauthorization forms for medications. We finally shifted that responsibility to the patients, where it belongs, asking them to fax or mail the forms to us. This has saved us hours of phone time and helped our patients appreciate the difficulties we face in dealing with payers.

Keep up with clinical studies

I keep up with the medical literature by downloading PDFs of key studies onto my USB memory stick. I get the studies from PubMed searches or my institution’s subscriptions to online journals. I created folders on my memory stick that are organized by each organ system, and I save the articles in them after naming them with a title that helps me remember what they are. When questions come up with medical students, colleagues or patients, if I have access to a computer, I can quickly find the study and review the findings.

Display data in graph form

Displaying data such as patient volume, patient waiting times and staff turnover in chart or graph form reveals patterns and can lead to opportunities for improvement. For example, a graph that tracks patient waiting times over three weeks might reveal which day of the week your office is the busiest. Your team can use this information to prepare and staff appropriately for the busy day. Presenting data to your team in this way maximizes their learning and can help your team make more informed decisions and plan more effectively.


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

Continue Reading

More in FPM

Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.