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THE ALLERGY AND ASTHMA CENTER WINS NATIONAL AWARD

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(L to R) Kevin Letz, N.D., Jeannie Giese, N.P., and Dr. Williams Smits2002 Physicians Practice, The Business Journal for Physicians, announced that The Allergy and Asthma Center, 7230 Engle Road, Fort Wayne, was selected as Grand Prize Winner of the 2002 Physicians Practice of the Year competition.

"As it becomes more important for physicians to be more knowledgeable about the business side of medicine, we wanted to recognize a practice that has gone above and beyond various areas of managing their offices, which no doubt enhances patient care," says Gerry Hartung, Co-CEO/Publisher of Physicians Practice.

The Allergy and Asthma Center's mission statement says it all: We're Building Relationships to Last a Lifetime. This remains the touchstone and standard for ALL business dealings, be it patient, insurance company, or pharmaceutical company.

What works best for the patient is the cornerstone of office management at The Allergy and Asthma Center in Fort Wayne, IN. This philosophy, coupled with state-of-the-art technology, has allowed this solo practice to comfortably achieve and handle a patient volume three to four times the national average.

A network of 60 computers is part of the infrastructure allowing for an incredibly efficient office flow. The "light show" (named for its flashing colors) is used to track each patients status during a visit, from check-in, being interviewed by a nurse, seeing a doctor or nurse practitioner, special tests or procedures, and finally through checkout. The status of every patient in the office can be determined at anytime by looking at any computer terminal. This means a provider can see how many patients are waiting. Staff also knows where the doctor is and how long he has been there.

Patients have raved about the quick callback time. Their telephone triage system can be credited for that as it provides easy routing for up to 300 calls a day. Furthermore, many visits can be avoided by speaking with a nurse first, thereby enhancing cost-effective management.

A digital photograph is taken of each patient on his or her first visit. All patients also have their photo scanned into their electronic medical records, so when staff converses with them by telephone, the photos can be pulled up, adding to the intimacy of the call.

Management obsesses about office flow, so monthly meetings are held to revise average times for patient rechecks. This has resulted in two breakthrough products: The Shot Room and The Same Day Clinic.

The Shot Room is crafted specifically to optimize allergy shot efficiency in a welcome, soothing environment. It has a plentiful supply of reading material and complimentary gourmet coffee. A separate recreation area was carefully crafted for children, with toys, books, and animated movies. The Shot Room remains open during the lunch hour and has extended hours to better accommodate patient lifestyle. Patients using The Shot Room are given a photo ID card that is scanned upon entering. This decreases the wait time to an average of two minutes. Patients know they can get in and out quickly, without having to wait the typical hour at their family physicians office.

The Same Day Clinic includes patients who typically wait 2 to 3 months for a new appointment elsewhere. This allows segregation of urgent and non-urgent patients, plus honors the appointment times of non-sick patients.

The Allergy and Asthma Clinic's absolute commitment to the highest standard is illustrated by the fact that only registered nurses are hired instead of medical assistants or LPN's. This standard, engenders pride amongst the team of 20 nurses who come from every field of nursing imaginable.

Patients come first. That is, all office busy work is subordinated to immediate patient concerns. Patient satisfaction is the foremost goal. In fact, the practice prides itself on never giving up on a patient, even though many have been told in the past that they simply cannot be helped. The healing process involves every staff member, beginning with the person who answers the phone. Yes, a real, live person answers every phone call. Everyone is expected to interact in a manner that is conducive to healing.

Overall, the practice is a happy and fun place to work. Joking with staff and patients is permitted to a degree within professionalism. Individual staff is empowered to make decisions that satisfy patients, such as agreeable payment schedules and forgiving balances in hardship cases. Although employed full-time, most of the 20 nurses, and many in administration, choose to work 4 days a week. Four of the RN's are currently pursing MBA degrees through the tuition-reimbursement program. The goal is an employee's overall happiness, for which the job is only one component. Not surprisingly, staff turnover is low.

Approximately 80% of the existing patients verbally refer new patients. Free phone nurse consultations are provided, and a patient will likely have their concerns answered immediately. A large part of revenue generates from The Same Day Clinic and the newer Headache and Sinus Clinic.

Physician's Practice, which publishes the largest circulated practice management journal in the U.S., receives dozens of 'Practice of the Year' entries from across the country. The Allergy and Asthma Center was chosen as the winner because of it's commitment to excellence in all of the practice management categories upon which the first annual competition was based—Technology, Office Management, Finance, Personal, and Patient Satisfaction. A panel of judges, who are experts in practice management and related areas, reviewed entries and selected a winner.

The Allergy and Asthma Center received several prizes as the Grand Winner and will be featured as the cover story for the November/December issue of Physicians Practice.

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