BY DONNA SUTER, Practice Consultant, Apison, Tenn.

Take a look around. Are there piles of unfinished work strewn across your desk? Are patients stuck in a holding pattern in the waiting room? Are you plagued by lost charts and the incessant ringing of the phone? Let's face it. You've lost control of your work environment.

Clearly, something has to change. But instead of tackling each problem separately, begin with the basics. Focusing on setting goals and priorities will improve patient communication and office efficiency in the long run. Here are some hints that can help you tame a runaway office.

  • Arrive 15 minutes early in the morning to prepare for the first patient.
  • Post appointment schedules in the exam room, the optical shop and the front desk so the whole staff knows how many patients to expect.
  • Pull patient files and verify appointments one day in advance.
  • Constantly strive to collect all co-pays, deductibles and deposits before patients leave the office.

With a little forethought and planning, you'll have that front desk whipped into shape in no time.