Is Your Desk Creating a Good Impression of You and Your Practice?

What is your impression of an airline when you sit down and open the tray on the back of the seat in front of you and find food and coffee stains on it? You may just worry if the same attention that was given to tray tables carries over to the maintenance of the engines. Or what is your opinion of a restaurant when you go to use the restroom and find paper towels and toilet paper on the floor and puddles of fluid around the urinal? You may just question the hygiene that takes place in the kitchen. Well those same impressions that you receive in other service industries may also take place in your office.

For the most part, patients do not go into a physician’s private office. However, they, on occasion, will be invited into that office or often they will 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 detail of our performing a careful history and physical exam. First of all, you can rid your desk of a great deal of paper if you go through your mail and take action steps 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 2-4 days, and the third for at a later date.

I take care of the first basket before I leave 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 that is also on my EMR making calls and recording actions taken or discussed, which improves patient safety and good medical-legal protection.

These are only suggestions that have worked 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 have to create positive impressions on our patients. Start with your desk and make sure it reflects your attention to detail and your ability to be organized and clean. Your patients and your staff will appreciate you for this.

Neil Baum, MD

Neil Baum, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA, and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice: Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers. He is also author of Social Media For The Healthcare Profession, Greenbranch Publishing, 2011. He blogs at