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Fam Pract Manag. 2008;15(1):41

Find formulary information quickly online

Fingertip Formulary ( is a free Web site with formulary information for hundreds of health plans including Medicare Part D programs. The site allows you to look up medications by generic or trade name and specify a health plan, and it tells you which tier the drug is in and whether there are restrictions such as prior authorization requirements or quantity limits. This Web site has saved my office staff and patients a lot of time.

Remember the power of “we”

I use “we” to express my commitment to patients and their families. For example, if I have to report bad news I say, “We are going to work together to achieve the best possible outcome” or “We will look at the best possible treatments.” This communicates that the patient, the family and I are a team, and the patient does not have to work through the problem alone.

Let the EOB substitute for a bill

When patients have coinsurance obligations and deductibles to meet, I collect nothing up front but instruct them to pay the balance due as soon as they get their Explanation of Benefits (EOB) in the mail. I tell them to disregard the note on the EOB that reads, “This is not a bill,” and to send me a check for the amount listed in the “Patient responsibility” column. My patients have adapted well to this system. I save money on overhead by not having to generate billing statements – and some patients' checks arrive even before I see my copy of the EOB.

Create a partnership between billing and front-desk employees

To promote efficiency and encourage cooperation between billing staff and those responsible for check-in, consider these ideas:

  • Develop a manual or list of simple billing-related tasks that the front-desk staff should handle, such as collecting patient insurance and personal information at check-in.

  • Create an insurance training manual that shows what each carrier's insurance card looks like and where the relevant information is located on the card. Be sure to update the manual systematically.

  • Schedule regular training sessions to educate new employees and refresh current ones. Topics may include reviewing front-desk processes, calculating what patients owe at the time of service and understanding co-pays, coinsurance and deductibles.

  • Cross-train billing staff and front-desk staff to accommodate staff turnover and absences.

Source: Swadener L. Building business partnerships. MGMA Connexion. October 2007:33–34.

Ease children's fear of exams

To help put young patients at ease, office and clinical staff should welcome each child and his or her parents with a smile, and kneel down to the child's eye level to shake his or her hand. Nurses and physicians may find that it helps to involve the child in the exam as much as possible by asking questions and having him or her hold objects. Always be honest with young patients. If a procedure is going to hurt, it is best to tell them so. Misleading them can be especially damaging to the doctor-patient relationship. Giving children a small gift upon their departure, such as a sticker or ball, can go a long way toward easing their anxiety when they visit your office again.


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Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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