Physicians: Improve Yourself, Your Medical Practice in 2014

January 12, 2014

From learning about ICD-10 to having more patience with difficult patients, here is one physician's list of resolutions for this year.

Happy 2014 to everyone! We are in that season of making resolutions to improve our lives. Have you made any with regards to your practice? It seems like a good time to tell you a few of mine.

1. Arrive to office on time-NO MATTER WHAT! I wrote a recent blog about tardiness, concerning both patients and staff. I have been guilty of not arriving exactly on time, often getting in 10 minutes to 15 minutes late (justifying it that an 8 a.m. patient won’t be ready for me until 5 minutes or 10 minutes, if they arrived on time).  This is selfish on my part and I aim to correct this. Yes, my time as a physician is valuable, but so is the time taken by my patients’ parents to bring their children to see me. Also, it is not fair to the staff to demand they show up on time but set a different standard for me.

2. Get all my notes done in a timely fashion. I’m pretty good at finishing my charts, but every now and then I get a bit lazy and it gets away from me. This creates problems for my billers. It also creates a big problem for me. If I have had a really busy day, I sometimes have a hard time remembering exactly who a specific patient was and what was wrong with them. (I barely remember what I had for dinner last night!) By getting my notes promptly, I will ensure that the patient chart is accurate and that the bill can be submitted quickly. This also applies to on-call notes (this has always been a challenge for me) and patient callbacks. I plan to improve on all of these.

3. Don’t let the turkeys get me down! Sometimes when I look at my schedule, I notice appointments for difficult patients or difficult parents. These are the ones that I feel somewhat helpless in terms of adequately serving and everything I say is a disappointment to them. Interestingly, these challenging families are often "frequent fliers" that prefer to see only me. I need to remind myself that if they keep coming back to my practice and specifically to see me, I must be helping them in some way. I need to keep a positive attitude, especially with these patients and parents. They are the ones that need me the most.

4. Remember to ask other providers if they need help with their schedules. Far too often in the wintertime, pediatrics can get really crazy. When the flu and other infections hit our community hard, we have a tremendous increase in patient volume. When I get backed up with a really sick child, I so appreciate another provider helping me out by seeing one or two of my other scheduled visits. I vow to do better about more frequently asking other providers if they need a helping hand.

5. I will learn about ICD-10, even it if kills me! The monster is at the gate and will not go away this time. We only have 273 days from New Year’s Day until the onset of ICD-10. As soon as we get our code books, I am going to start looking at them. And I discovered that you can Google ICD-10 codes now to familiarize yourself with the changes. It is going to take a monumental effort on everyone’s part to make this transition as smooth as possible. I will let you know an update soon.

6. Take care of yourself, doctor! As medical providers, we should be living the advice we give patients. Eat sensibly, exercise daily, and get adequate sleep. Also remember to make your follow-up appointments and annual physical exam for yourself. I just got a fancy pedometer that measures lots more than just steps. I plan to use this to help me track my healthy habits. I’m even considering putting in a treadmill desk in my main office. When we are healthy, we are better able to deal with our patient and practice needs. And patients will respect our advice more if we live it ourselves.

7. Learn something new this year that will benefit my practice. This year, I plan to become proficient in spreadsheets. Most of you probably can do these in your sleep. I’m just old enough to not have had to do this in college, med school, or residency and will admit that I still prefer to do financial analysis on paper. But I intend to learn how to create and manipulate spreadsheets to help analyze my practice finances. Especially with all the new changes for medicine this year, it is critical that I spot business trends before the practice gets into trouble.

8. Be grateful! This one is the most important. I am so fortunate to work in a career that I love and that gives me so much satisfaction by helping children. I work with great people in my office and I have been fortunate to be in the same community for over 20 years now. I resolve to remind myself every day to remember to be grateful for all the wonderful things in my professional life.

By announcing my resolutions for 2014 in public, I hope to be more likely to successfully achieve my goals. What resolutions do you want to make (and keep?) this year?