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[ 7 strategies for creating a more efficient practice]
Fam Pract Manag.2007 sep;14(8):27-30 http://www.aafp.org/fpm/2007/0900/p27.html
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Simple, low-cost technologies and strategic outsourcing have helped this solo physician practice efficiently, even without any staff.
It’s an ultra-solo, no-staff ideal medical practice, also known as a micro practice. Low over-head allows me to see fewer patients per day and spend more time with them, but it also requires that I optimize efficiency in order to accomplish all of the administrative tasks on my own.
I discovered one of the most delightful aspects of a micro practice: its responsiveness to change. When I decide to change something, it simply gets done. No one needs to be convinced or trained. The results are immediate and dramatic.
I’ve listed below the changes that were the most helpful in my workflow redesign:
1. Offer online appointment booking.
I use http://www.appointmentquest.com . When patients want to make an appointment, they simply go to my Web site and follow the prompts. It saves them and me lots of phone time.
2. Delegate history-taking to patients.
In September 2006, I started using Instant Medical History (http://www.medicalhistory.com), which allows patients to enter their own history into their chart.
3. Use free tools to measure how you’re doing.
How’s Your Health? (http://www. howsyourhealth.org) is a free online tool that collects patient-entered data regarding their health status and their perceptions of the care they have received, and it provides a sum mary to the patient and to the doctor.
4. Use e-mail to convey laboratory and X-ray results to patients.
5. Don’t be afraid to let the answering machine pick up.
During office hours, my message machine states, “I am currently with a patient or otherwise unable to get to the phone; please leave a message and I will call you back as soon as I can.”
6. Use electronic billing.
7. Hire a poster/biller.
I gave up on the pure ultra-solo/no-hired-help model, mostly because I hate posting and billing.
While my practice is by no means perfectly efficient, the above changes have made my practice sustainable over the long haul. Even if you are not planning to open your own micro practice, many of the above changes in workflow and processes are applicable to any practice setting.
For those interested in practice transformation via the ideal medical practice model, join the online discussion group “practiceimprovement1″ at http://www.groups.yahoo.com. It will connect you with like-minded physicians and give you information on how to nudge, nurture and shape your practice as it evolves to its truly “ideal” form.