Pearls of wisdom make life easier

By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
President and CEO
Earnhart & Associates

Over the years we all assemble pearls of information that make our load a bit lighter and can be valuable to share. Some of this information may be helpful to you so I thought I would pass it on.

The Internet. No one should doubt the power of the Internet. It is changing the entire scope of business around the world and the implications for health care can be staggering. That doesn’t mean that we have to wait to see these changes — many of them we can take advantage of today. "Instant Messaging" is one of the features that comes from the Internet. This program is offered free from many sites on the Internet — America Online’s Web site has a version that you can download and use free — even if you are not a member of America Online! This program can be resident on your computer, and after you set up the parameters, you can communicate instantly with anyone in the world — live, in real time, at no cost! (Assuming you have an Internet account with someone). You type in your message, and the other person can reply in real time. (Our entire office communicates with the program, including our off-site locations.) After a few days, you’ll wonder how you got by without it. This is especially helpful if your main OR is in a different location than your surgery center. If you have several locations in a city or state, you can all be live on-line and keep up to date. It is one of those little programs that allows you to stay in touch with your peers across the country or your kids at home. Try it.

Templates. Take advantage of computer templates that you can make in your word processor. Much of the work we all do in this business is repetitious. Take advantage of the technology and take all your most common spreadsheets, communications, and memos and save them on your computer desktop. Then, when you are ready to change your budget or send a letter, you can bring it up and have the "set up" all ready for your input.

E-mail. How long has e-mail actually been around? A few years at the most, I think. Now how can you conduct business without it? I receive more than 50 e-mails per day. Think of the time and money saved by this form of communication. I am shocked when people tell me that they are going to "mail" (snail mail) me something. It takes forever. Even a fax takes too long. Most of you are aware of the "group" feature with most e-mail programs. With this, you can send one e-mail to dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people at the same time. One little thing that might save you is to make sure you set your software to "confirm" before your mail goes out. Those few seconds have saved me several times when I have been about to send a message in anger. This is particularly a great feature for staying in touch with contacts you make at conferences or workshops.

Conference calling. I know this is so old, but have you used it lately? I am finding that more and more, a good conference call can replace a meeting. I will do just about anything to get out of a meeting, especially if I can get the same results in my office and have all my material spread out in front of me and have the time to collect my thoughts before I respond to a question. It won’t replace a staff meeting, but it can sure shorten other meetings.

Pocket organizers. There are dozens of these electronic date books, address books, and calendars on the market, so many that it is difficult to determine which is the best. All have limitations, but they do allow you to share your schedule (while hiding the private calendar or personal information) with your peers or staff members. Their "search" option allows you to quickly locate a meeting date, attendees, and agenda items without the hassle of looking through all your written correspondence. However, one of the best features is the "to-do" section. This area reminds me of what I am supposed to do while I am thinking of it — great for a busy schedule!

Vendor updates. If you cannot order your disposable on-line now, it is time to think about changing vendors. The ability to have your staff upload your order to your vendors is so superior to handwritten or even verbal orders. If you don’t have this ability now, insist upon it in the future.

Benchmarking industry standards. As promised, I try to update on benchmarks that we find across the country. Please, oh please, remember that these are not absolutes and can vary greatly — no hate mail please! Here are a few that might help you:

    • utility costs per square foot +/- $3.00;
    • general liability insurance +/- $5.00 per patient visit;
    • postage +/- $1.50 per patient;
    • management fees +/- 6% of collections;
    • payroll and benefits +/- 23%.

If anyone wants to add to this list or give their feedback information, please e-mail me at or Instant Message to "DallasInc."

[Editor’s note: Earnhart can be reached at Earnhart & Associates, 5905 Tree Shadow Place, Suite 1200, Dallas, TX 75252. E-mail:; Web site:]