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Set aside two hours for staff and keep interruptions in check

Some of the most annoying problems are often solved with the simplest of solutions. Such was the case at an internal medicine practice in Macon, GA.

The practice has eight physicians and nearly 75 staff, but only one administrator dealing with constant interruptions that made getting her work done difficult.

Most of the interruptions were from staff with small, but necessary, requests for things like time off for medical appointments or vacation days. But there were also interruptions that required her full attention such as staff conflicts or personal issues such as stresses at home. All total, the interruptions were taking up as much as 30 percent of her day.

The problem turned out to be an easy one to solve. The administrator set aside the last two hours of each day—from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.—and asked staff to save non-patient related issues for that time. She was clear, however, that staff could come to her immediately with any matter involving a patient.

Staff can now just walk in during those hours or send an email in advance outlining what they’d like to discuss. They seem to prefer the advance email when the issue involves conflict with another employee.

To ensure she is accessible to staff, the administrator limits her own work during that time to tasks that do not require her full attention, things such as returning short phone calls or answering emails.

Now, on an average day, she spends just 30 to 45 minutes of the two hours she’s set aside talking with staff who drop by. She says scheduling interruption time also benefits staff who are assured of a courteous welcome.

In the past it was not uncommon for someone to come by at a time when she was simply too busy to talk, leaving her no choice but to tell them to come back later. Often a staffer had to come back two, or even three times before she was free to talk.

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