American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Efficient docs make for happier patients

From the October ACP Internist, copyright © 2008 by the American College of Physicians

By the CPII Staff

An efficient workplace creates happy patients and happy doctors. Patients can spend more time with the physician without having a long wait. They leave their appointments feeling as though they received high-quality care because of the extra time the physician was able to take and the personal attention they received from the office staff. This strengthens the patient-doctor relationship. A more efficient office lets physicians better manage the many demands on his/her time, such as calling patients, responding to consultants and completing paperwork. Enhancing efficiency can even reduce paperwork if it eliminates re-work.

Here are some commonsense tips on running an efficient practice:

Reduce phone calls: You cannot influence inbound calls but you can control outbound calls. Schedule follow-up visits for those patients who are reliable and can keep a future appointment. For those who can’t, create reminders for your staff to call the patient. Anticipate inbound phone calls by making outbound ones when it is more convenient and efficient. Call recently discharged patients, schedule phone visits with patients who are chronically ill, or reach out to patients recently seen for an acute illness. When a patient is not doing well, offer an appointment before getting into a long conversation.

Respect your patients’ time: Try to stay on schedule and use downtime effectively. Communication is also the key to high-quality care. Make sure you really listen to your patients and they will listen to you.

Use your staff: Delegate as much as possible, such as drawing blood, calling in refills, escorting patients and getting vital signs. Your staff should function at the highest level of their training, license, skill and ability. This will make the physician more productive and may enhance staff job satisfaction.

Make your practice patient-centered: Minimize patient movement around the office. Create an office procedure that patients will know and understand so they are not confused when walking in for their appointment. Form a “care team” to surround and focus on each patient, resulting in improved and continuous quality care as well as improved work satisfaction for the physician.

These ideas may seem basic, but sometimes practices get caught up in the details of daily operations and lose sight of the big picture. More information on physician time management and practice efficiency is online.

ACP’s Center for Practice Improvement and Innovation (CPII) combines the expertise of the Practice Management Center (PMC) and the Center for Practice Innovation, as well as other HIT specialists. For all practice management, quality improvement and HIT resources, visit online.

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