3 easy time savers for docs

For the many practices that are struggling financially these days, it's critical that physicians optimize their production without sacrificing quality patient care.

It's a tall order, but Daniel Konold, medical director of Ohio Primary Care, the second largest physician-owned primary care medical group in the United States, shared with a packed crowd at the Medical Group Management Association's Annual Conference several strategies for how it can be done.

The following ideas may seem simple, but the results can quickly accumulate to yield more time to see patients and increase your group's profitability:

1. Schedule strategically.

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The best time for more time-consuming visits and procedures is the last slot of the morning, right before lunch.
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"Never schedule a Pap smear or new patient first thing in the day," Konold said. Instead, start your day with visit types that you can more confidently predict will be quick, such as routine follow-up visits. The best time for more time-consuming visits and procedures, he said, is during your last slot of the morning, right before lunch. That way, if things get complicated or take extra time, your schedule doesn't become backed up for the rest of the day.

2. Keep patients on track.
For some patients, particularly the elderly, it's tempting to treat a doctor's appointment like a social visit and start chatting about their grandchildren or a recent vacation, Konold said. "The best [time-management] skill for physicians is to politely stop the patient and get them back on track." To do so, Konold said he'll touch the patient's arm and say something like, "That's very nice, Mrs. Jones. Now let's get back to what we're doing here."

3. Get a jump start on your day.
Some physician offices are notorious for falling behind schedule. The backlog becomes frustrating for patients and stressful on staff and physicians. Konold suggested doctors arrive at the office 15 minutes early on regular weekdays to review the prior day's labs and faxes that arrived overnight. And for the truly ambitious, Konold shared another tip: "If I go on vacation, I usually get back on Saturday and go to the office for the day on Sunday to sign paperwork. Then I can start Monday with a clean slate."

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