10 tips to maximize your time
By Donald E. Stillwagon, M.D.
Editor’s note: Like many family physicians, Donald E. Stillwagon, M.D., of The Woodlands, Texas, must make the most of his time in the office so he can address patients’ needs and his administrative work, and still make it home at a reasonable hour. Realizing that many family physician colleagues also struggle with a daily time crunch, he graciously offers his “ten commandments” for in-office time management to achieve a happier, more productive practice.
- I shall start on time. Catching up is much harder than staying ahead.
- I shall walk into the exam room at the time of the patient’s appointment. Doing so will result in a greater likelihood of the patient requesting that the problem for which the appointment was made will be addressed and not additional items that he or she thought of while waiting.
- I shall have reviewed the patient’s medical history prior to the patient’s appointment time. This will allow you to get to the point of the patient visit and not appear as if you do not recall what was done the previous visit.
- I shall step out of the exam room when time permits to be available to precept physician assistants and nurse practitioners. This allows you to maximize the down time while the patient is getting changed into a gown; you have the 1-2 minutes needed to precept.
- I shall complete the prior day’s work before starting a new day and time. This may be at the end of the workday, or via a very early start on the following day.
- I shall be proactive, rather than reactive, when considering the amount of time needed to complete tasks. Knowing how much time you will need to get back on schedule allows you to then block off slots ahead of time to get back on schedule (and get the work done).
- I shall address the lab results on my desk at the beginning of the day before the time of my first patient appointment. Reviewing/addressing labs of patients seen the previous day takes seconds, rather than the minutes required for patients seen many days ago.
- I shall ensure my medical record summary lines reflect what it is I need to know when addressing the patient next time. This will make No. 3 easier.
- I shall keep the number of intra-office memos on my desktop to a single digit at any one time. Keeping tasks on the desktop that will not be addressed until some later date just creates clutter, making it difficult to locate what needs to be addressed today.
- I shall spend more time with my family as a result of these tips. Remember that in “family practice,” “family” comes first and “practice” comes second.