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Fam Pract Manag. 2010;17(1):34

Offer patients interesting reading materials

The rat-eared National Geographic in the waiting room is a cliché I've always tried to avoid. Every year or two I visit the magazine section of a large bookstore and pick out new magazines to subscribe to. My criteria are that they have to be unusual (usually ones I've never heard of), attractive, tasteful and less than $1 an issue with a subscription. Several patients comment about our reading selection each week.

Catalogs are another patient-pleaser. The unsolicited mail-order catalogs we all receive can be quite interesting to our patients. We cut off the address labels if they were sent to our homes and place them in the waiting area and exam rooms. We attach labels to the catalogs that invite patients to take them home if they wish. It's surprising how often they do.

Prepare to impress

Nothing is more irritating to a patient than to have to answer the same questions three times, so I always review the nurse's history, labs and the previous visit before I put my hand on the doorknob of the exam room. My first comment to the patient proves I'm prepared, but here's a trick: We keep our waiting charts at the nursing desk, so the patient doesn't hear me take it out of a slot on the door. That way patients naturally assume that I've got a great memory (I don't) or that I'm exceptionally dedicated (I'm not). You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and every visit to my office is a new first impression. Just one problem: When my patient catches me at the grocery store, and I can't remember her name – let alone her medications – I just have to hope she figures I'm exhausted from my long day of thorough preparation.

Getting into Medicare after opting out

Thank your staff regularly

The best way to assure customer service in your practice is to focus on cultivating a staff that feels valued. Praise, encouragement and appreciation (as long as they are sincere) go a long way in getting your staff to perform at their best. The most fundamental way to show appreciation, and the one that makes the most lasting impression, is to create an atmosphere in which saying “thank you” is a part of your normal work day. Take time to notice how hard your staff members work; tell them you understand the pressures they face; acknowledge that their jobs (like yours) have become more difficult.

These are small but effective ways to help your staff feel appreciated. Remember that even routine work can be hard. Don't think of praise as something appropriate only for extreme accomplishments.


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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