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Fam Pract Manag. 2008;15(6):37

Test your telephone service

When I call my office, I always dial the same number my patients use. This way I can have the same experience my patients have and assess how well we are managing our phones. Are callers put on an endless hold? Do they have to go through an extensive phone tree before getting to speak with the correct staff member? This also keeps the staff on their toes, as they never know when the caller might be their boss.

Print Medicaid prescriptions on low-cost paper

I use blank, tamper-resistant check paper – the kind that can be used to print from financial software applications like QuickBooks – to meet the requirements for Medicaid prescriptions that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began phasing in on April 1. This paper has enough security features to meet the stricter requirements that take effect on Oct. 1, and it costs a tenth of other options because I order it three “checks” to a page from an office supply store. I set up my electronic health record (EHR) to print prescriptions on the top third of each page so that even after one or two “checks” have been removed at the perforations, the printer accepts and prints the prescription on the remaining third. If you don’t have an EHR, you could use your printer to add the standard information that all prescriptions would include, and then use the paper like you would use prescription pads.

Completing FMLA paperwork for patients’ family members

An elderly patient’s son recently asked me to fill out Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork so that he could be granted time off work to care for my patient. I have never provided care to the son, and I’m not designated as his primary physician. Shouldn’t he have his own physician fill out the paperwork?

You should fill out the paperwork for the patient’s son because you are in the best position to determine what his role in caring for your patient should be, the level of care that will be needed and for what duration. It would be difficult for another physician who is unfamiliar with your patient to address these issues.

Because filling out the forms can be time intensive, you should ask the patient or family member to fill out as much of the form as possible prior to bringing it in. Many practices tell patients to allow several days for completion of the paperwork or require that patients schedule an appointment at which the paperwork can be completed. Check with your payers to determine if reimbursement is provided for such visits. If not, it may be possible to charge patients a fee for this service if it is not prohibited by your state.

Use software to track chronic disease follow-up

To ensure that patients who have one or more of five specified chronic diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension) are seen regularly at our practice, we use the reporting capabilities of our practice management system, AthenaNet ( This system allows us to generate lists of patients with these diagnoses who have not been seen in the past six months. The patients on these lists are called twice and urged to make an appointment. If no response is received, we follow up with a letter. If the patient still does not reply, we designate him or her as inactive. Generating the lists, calling and writing to patients consumes some practice resources. However, income from the additional patient visits results in a five-fold return on this investment.


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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