Strategies for coping with the recession

Laser Print Your Appointment Slips

Steven P. McEvoy, IT Consultant Sacramento, Calif

Are you spending a fortune on black ink cartridges for your appointment slip printers? There are now very small, inexpensive laser printers that can replace that old inkjet printer at the front desk. Quiet and energy-efficient, they can print thousands of slips from a single toner cartridge, saving you hundreds of dollars per year. They are fully supported by the major practice-management software companies such as Dolphin, Ortho II, and Orthotrac.

Although there are many makers, I recommend the HP LaserJet P1505. It takes up as little space as a typical inkjet, being only 9 x 9 x 15 inches. It is available from stores like Staples and online retailers like for about $200. This model connects directly to a PC via USB.

Consider getting the networked version, the HP LaserJet P1505n. This model can be connected directly to your network cabling, allowing it to print faster and work with all the PCs on your practice’s network. For example, you could place one on the back counter of the clinical area, and all of your clinic PCs could print to it, allowing you to schedule appointments chairside. This model costs $50 more, but is well worth it.

If you are ready to make the change, start by calling your practice-management software vendor to be sure the model is supported. Plan to involve your local IT person for about an hour (to remove the old printer and its software drivers, and to set up the new printer). You’ll also probably need to make a short call to your practice-management software tech support line to adjust the system to print the slips to the new printer.

Tech Tip: Remove the add-on plastic tongues on the input and output trays of the printer to make its footprint even smaller. They are for catching full-size pieces of paper, but the usual 1/3-height appointment slips don’t need them.

Profiting in a Down Economy

Penny Mustard, Consultant Phoenix

How do you make a profit in a down economy combined with the fact that new patient exams may be dwindling as a result? Several ways:

  1. Improve efficiency by creating treatment plans within your practice-management software. This will reduce the number of office visits needed per patient to complete treatment, save overhead and staff hours, and keep you focused on the next step—eliminating continual reevaluation of the case.
  2. Fill those gaps in your schedule from cancelled or changed appointments by developing a “wait list/upgrade” process in your practice-management software that will trigger patients needing to get in sooner for certain types of appointments.
  3. Go paperless. Scanners are not only inexpensive but are quick, easy to use, and will save documents in a PDF format in your software. It eliminates all that filing time and halts the never-ending search for the missing document or chart.
  4. Improve your patient communications. Take that undervalued care call to the next level. Use it along with your e-mail system to relay important information and patient instructions, thus reducing the unnecessary office visits or emergency appointments to address these issues.
  5. Continue to market your practice. This is not the time to stop, or you will find yourself at the back of the pack when the economy finally bounces back. There are effective marketing ideas that do not cost a lot of money.

Remember, your practice-management system is a powerful tool. Learn to use it wisely. It is just like making budget cuts: Just put some thought into ways technology can save time—and remember, time is money!


Joan Garbo, Consultant Copiague, NY

There is a saying that whatever you focus on gets bigger; and we all know that if we tell a child not to spill the milk, we will be mopping up milk in just a few minutes. This same principle applies to the economy. With all the talk about recession, it is critical to monitor the conversations you and your staff are having about the recession. Amid all the doom and gloom, be a beacon of light! (Worry never solved a problem—only actions can!)

At the start of your morning huddle, have everyone write down on a flip chart one thing for which they are grateful that day, and make a rule that there can be no duplicates. Do this for a month. Train yourselves to look for what is abundant in your life; pay attention to the patients who are there and the new patients who are calling in. Anyone short of cash for holidays or birthdays? Make up creative gifts of your time and talents: give coupons for your time such as offering to babysit, wash someone’s car, be a personal assistant, or cook a meal for them. Have your office be a place where patients can bring in food and gifts for the less fortunate.

The economy may be hurting, but our blessings still abound!

12 Tips for Discussing Position Elimination or Downsizing

Cathy Sundvall, Consultant Kissimmee, Fla

  1. Make the conversation quick and simple. Try not to get into a lot of explanation of the situation. The more detail you give, the more the person will question your decision.
  2. Conduct the conversation in the most private place possible.
  3. Indicate that you need to discuss changes that will be made in the practice.
  4. Explain that you have been reevaluating the practice and its overall effectiveness. Indicate that you recently had an evaluation of the efficiency of the practice.
  5. The conclusion is that one (or more) positions must be eliminated.
  6. Explain that the team member you are talking to is the one whose position will be eliminated, based on tenure (or whatever appropriate criteria was used to determine this).
  7. Indicate your regret that this is necessary.
  8. Explain to the team member what this means to him or her:
    • Last Day: In almost every situation, it should be immediately. I recommend paying for a full day on the day you inform the team member.
    • Compensation: Indicate what pay she is entitled to and when she will receive it. This includes regular pay, severance, vacation, and anything else.
    • Health Care: When does it end?
    • Other: Any other issues that need to be wrapped up, such as keys, training manuals, or uniforms.
  9. Explain that the staff is unaware of this decision. The team member may ask if they are the only one being let go. Be prepared to answer and reiterate why this person is being impacted.
  10. Determine at what point in the day to have this conversation and how to handle announcements and good-byes with the rest of the staff.
  11. Allow the person to express his or her pain, distress, and frustration, but do not get caught up in it. Do not get emotional. Do not offer unnecessary explanations.
  12. Reiterate the reasons for your decision.