Celebratory Lunch a Great Forum for Brainstorming Practice Issues

October 3, 2011

During a leisurely lunch with my staff, the conversation centered on some great practice-related topics.

On Friday, my staff, my associate, my husband/biller and I went out to lunch to celebrate our second anniversary. We closed the office an hour early (Friday is our short day anyway), and went to a nearby restaurant. Much as we tried not to talk shop, when you spend over 75 percent of your waking hours working, what else is there to talk about?

Some random topics that came about:

1.) The potential for group visits: We know they work. We know that, in theory, they generate revenue. The first problem is space. The second is staffing. We need to have someone other than a physician conduct the majority of the group sessions, otherwise we could make just as much seeing the patients individually.

2.) A non-physician provider: I am starting to actively look into hiring a nurse practitioner. My schedule is so full now that not only do new patients have to wait, but also I have nowhere to put follow-up patients. Any emergencies? No such thing. If it’s an emergency, there’s a room for that.

3.) Answering services: Why do practices still use them? We just have calls that come after hours forwarded directly to our phones. You can choose any phone number - home, cell, husband’s cell (cause you forgot yours somewhere) - at any time. Sure there’s a fee to have the messages forwarded, and there’s no filter, but how much do answering services cost, and are you ever sure they are getting the appropriate messages where they have to go? I know a surgeon who was on leave, and his answering service told patients and doctors that the practice was closed indefinitely.

4.) Double booking: I know practices do it. I refuse. I don’t think it’s fair to make patients wait. If they come on time and don’t make me wait, I will make sure they are seen in a timely manner. I may run five to ten minutes late, 15 minutes tops. After that, I am probably more agitated that the patient is. Patients tell me all the time they left a practice not because they don’t like the doctor, but because they have to wait. And they can’t dedicate a half day (or 10-12 hours in some cases) for a five- to 15-minute appointment.

I am sure these, and other topics, will continue to come up in the next few months. As the practice grows, we will have to readdress these issues. I look forward to more anniversary lunches. I hope we can talk about the Yankees instead of work.

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