Efficiency 101 for the time poor GP

I have told you all before that I detest running late. A day of running late is followed by a tedious evening of paperwork, the increasing frustration level inverse to the doctor’s efficiency at that moment, as you get more and more desperate not to be there, the longer you take to do simple tasks.

Lately, I have been trying to make my practice more streamlined and efficient. When I say ‘my practice’ I mean the way I personally do things, not the practice as a whole, as I am a private contractor, not a partner in the business. From time to time I offer my ideas for running things more smoothly for everyone, but being (I suspect) change averse and a little technophobic the principals rarely implement my suggestions.

The beauty of being a contractor is having a bit more autonomy, so I have gone ahead and done things the way I want for myself.

Here are some of my more efficient habits and protocols:

Patients who don’t show up get sent a letter. This first letter is usually just a warning, but on subsequent occasions of not showing up I charge a small fine. They need to settle this fee before they see me again. If they continue to miss appointments (yet to happen since I’ve been doing this) I will recommend they attend a different practitioner.

Patients who are more than ten minutes late have missed their appointment (a single appointment is only 15 minutes). They are free to wait for me to fit them in, otherwise they are advised to rebook.

If multiple issues are raised and they are not urgent, I arrange to see the patient again the following week to finish sorting them out. If I need to address the issues that day, I ask reception to let patients know I am running late and to ask if they are happy to wait or would rather rebook.

I keep computer notes. As I am a wicked fast typist this allows me to write a lot more and to type while maintaining eye contact with the patient. It also ensures my notes are legible to any other doctor seeing the patient.

When I order a test, I specify how the patient should go about getting their result. Depending on the test and the result, I may phone them, the nurse may phone them or I ask them to come back. For routine tests with normal results, I leave it until they are next in.

When I go through my paperwork tray, I try to action each item there and then. This may be filing it, asking reception to book the patient an appointment, making a phonecall, or having the offending piece of paper shredded or recycled. I ask reception (repeatedly, though it is still happening) to avoid putting drug advertising material in my tray.

If a phone message is received from a patient I either book a time to call them, ask them to come in for an appointment, or delegate, for example if they want their results, which are normal, I ask our exceptional nurses to kindly phone the patient. I will take this opportunity to add that a good practice nurse is the most valuable asset a general practice can have.

Phonecalls from doctors and nursing home directors are put through to me straight away. For any other calls reception takes a message. If it seems urgent, they ring and ask if I am happy to take the call.

Having written the above, I wonder if this job has changed me into a self important tyrant. I hope not. I like to think that keeping things smooth keeps me calm and more able to give my patients unhurried, holistic care.

I would be interested to know the efficiency tips other GPs have adopted over their careers. Please comment below if you have any you would like to share!


One comment

  1. Hi Claire,
    I totally agree with all your suggestions, hairdressers wouldn’t tolerate half of the things GPs do from their clients/patients. My only suggestion is to remember that your receptionists are probably under extreme pressure from drug reps – I used to find agreeing to put their pamphlets in the doctors’ mailbox was a way to stop them waylaying the doctor between appointments.

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