by Neil H. Baum, MD

messy deskEditor’s Note: In this post, Dr. Neil Baum presents doctor-to-doctor ideas founded in his 30 years of real-world experience as a practicing urologist in New Orleans. He is a sought-after speaker, and the author of Social Media For the Healthcare Professional, Greenbranch Publishing, 2011.

What is your first impression of an airline when you sit down and open the seatback tray in front of you and find food and coffee stains on the tray?  It might cause you to worry that the same level attention that was given to tray tables carried over to the maintenance of the engines.

Or what is your opinion of a restaurant when you find the paper towels on the restroom floor and the sink a mess? You may just question the hygiene that takes place in the kitchen.

The same kind of “instant impressions” that you have regarding other service industries may also take place in your office. Consider what your desk may be saying about you.

For the most part, patients do not go into a physician’s private office.  But on occasion, they will be invited into that office or perhaps walk by the office and look inside.  What impression are you creating if you have papers strewn over the desk, journals stacked high on the desk or on the floor, and post-it notes attached to the computer, the phone or desk lamp?

Your office desk says a great deal about your level of organization, your habits and your attention to detail.  Also, what does a cluttered desk say to your employees who will almost always see the interior of your private office?

I suggest that we give the same attention to our desk as we do to the detail of performing a careful history and physical exam.  Instant impressions can communicate an important message. Here are some suggestions that you might find useful.

First of all, you can rid your desk of a great deal of paper if you take action on each piece of mail, i.e., that which immediately goes into the wastepaper basket, that which must be addressed immediately, and that mail which can be reviewed at a later date.

You can also have three baskets on the desk or the credenza behind the desk: one for what needs action on today, another for what needs attention within two or three days, and the third for taking up at a later date. (I take care of the first basket before I leave each day, and as much as the second basket as I have time for.)

I also have a callback sheet prepared by the nurse or the receptionist that I check at the end of each day and make notes about the phone responses.  I have a task icon as part of my Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system regarding making calls and recording actions taken or discussed, which improves patient safety and good medical-legal protection.

These are only suggestions. They work for me and my desk.  Of course, if you have other ideas that work for you, please share them with me.

Bottom Line: We are in the business of providing health care.  But we are also in the first impression business and we have to create positive impressions with our patients.  Start with your desk and make sure it reflects your attention to detail and your ability to be organized.  Your patients and your staff will appreciate you for this. 

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Neil Baum

Neil Baum

Dr. Neil Baum is a nationally recognized urologist, speaker and author. He has been in the private practice in New Orleans, LA, since 1978 and is Associate Clinical Professor of Urology at Tulane Medical School and Louisiana State University Medical School. He is also a talented public speaker and entertaining magician. Dr. Baum has authored several books on marketing including Marketing Your Clinical Practice, Social Media for the Healthcare Practice, and Physician Reputation Management in the Age of Social Media.


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