A private practitioner in Albany, Ga., Dr. Erhardt believes the solution to the problems that are squeezing fun out of the practice of medicine is for physicians to increase their productivity and bring their lives into balance.
That means "getting back to the basics of what you want to do and who you are," says Dr. Erhardt, who presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery in collaboration with David Larson, M.D., chairman of the department of plastic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and Karen Wood, C.H.E., C.H.B.C., a practice administrator at the Marietta Eye Clinic in Marietta, Ga.Physicians can increase productivity with better management of their time and their pursuit of new knowledge and skills.
With time management, Dr. Erhardt recommends planning strategically to establish priorities and then allocating time according to those priorities. He emphasizes the importance of working with staff to create a structured environment, and of carving out chunks of time, when not seeing patients, to return phone calls and do paper work.
An efficient use of meetings leads to better practice management. That begins with an annual strategic planning summit with staff to set goals and establish the budget. Each month, staff should prepare a monthly report covering the budget variance, referral patterns, and business trends. The physician should review that prior to a two- to three-hour monthly staff meeting aimed at making strategic course corrections. Short weekly meeting of 30 to 45 minutes allow for timely response to recent operational issues and preparation for the following week's business.
As for knowledge management, Dr. Erhardt said, "This is one of the hardest areas. How do we handle all the information that comes to us? It's easy to get overwhelmed."
Instead of browsing opportunities and making impetuous decisions, he develops a CME game plan. "Where are you most behind in terms of your skills or where is most of your practice? If it's 80 percent breasts, then you may want to focus your creative skills in that area," he says. "I look for appropriate CMEs and set up structured time for expanding my knowledge ... in an orderly fashion."