Managing Your Practice

New Year’s resolutions


It’s time for my once-a-decade (more or less) list of resolutions. As long as you are pledging to turn over a new leaf at home, why not do it at the office as well?

I can’t presume to know what issues need addressing in your practice, but I do know the ones I get asked about most often, so I can offer some suggestions that might provide inspiration:

1. Keep your website up to date. Check it now, then make a note to check it regularly. Most people find their physicians online these days, and you don’t want them finding a year-old presentation with outdated photos, personnel, services, and rates. Keep your site current, or hire someone to do it for you.

2. Be an authoritative presence on social media. Like it or not, you should be on Facebook, Twitter (at least for now), Instagram, TikTok – wherever your patients congregate. Medical topics are popular search categories, and they are searching for expert advice. You are the expert. There is a ton of medical misinformation online, and it needs to be countered with accurate, factual data from bona fide experts.

Dr. Joseph S. Eastern, a dermatologist in Belleville, N.J.

Dr. Joseph S. Eastern

3. Follow colleagues. No need to reinvent the wheel; many physicians have already developed large online followings. Track some of them down, follow them yourself, and use them as inspiration for your own online contributions. Your specialty society probably maintains a presence on Instagram and other sites as well, and they are a good source of topics and tips.

4. Post frequently. We all have a finite amount of time, but a few brief posts per week on various social media platforms will attract more attention, and garner more followers than an occasional long treatise. Add relevant hashtags to get more reach and engagement.

5. Participate in trends. When a topic is getting thousands of views, it a trending topic. Post on trending topics, and if you know the trend’s original authors, tag them. That will increase your audience, and the compliment might be reciprocated in the future.

6. Google yourself. You might be surprised by what you find. Being aware of what is being said about you online is a necessary exercise to maintain a healthy online reputation. The good reviews are ego builders, but it’s the bad reviews that you can learn from. They will help you identify your negative personality traits and motivate you to eliminate them.

7. Encrypt your mobile devices. The biggest HIPAA vulnerability in many practices is laptops and tablets carrying confidential patient information; losing one could be a disaster. Encryption software is cheap and readily available, and a lost or stolen mobile device will probably not be treated as a HIPAA breach if it is properly encrypted.

8. Back up your data. Now is an excellent time to verify that the information on your office and personal computers is being backed up – locally and online – on a regular schedule. Don’t wait until something crashes.

9. Keep a closer eye on your office finances. Most physicians delegate the bookkeeping, and that’s fine. But ignoring the financial side completely creates an atmosphere that facilitates embezzlement. Set aside a couple of hours each month to review the books personally. And make sure your employees know you’re doing it.

10. Make sure your long-range financial planning is on track. I’ve said this before, but it can’t be repeated too often. Economic conditions change all the time. Once a year, you should sit down with your accountant and lawyer and make sure your investments are well-diversified and all other aspects of your finances – budgets, credit ratings, insurance coverage, tax situations, college savings, estate plans, retirement accounts – are in the best shape possible.

11. Pay down your debt. Another oldie but goodie. Debt can destroy the best laid retirement plans. If you carry significant debt, set up a plan to pay it off as soon as you can.

12. Take more vacations. Remember Eastern’s First Law: Your last words will NOT be, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.” If you’ve been working too much, this is the year to start spending more time enjoying your life, your friends and family, and the world. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Dr. Eastern practices dermatology and dermatologic surgery in Belleville, N.J. He is the author of numerous articles and textbook chapters, and is a longtime monthly columnist for Dermatology News. Write to him at

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