Conducting a daily huddle is not a new concept, but unfortunately what should be common practice isn’t so common in many of the healthcare settings I visit. Starting the day off the right way provides you with a better opportunity to make sure you end the day the right way. A lot of things can happen in between the beginning of the day and the end of the day, but making sure everyone is well informed and ready prior to seeing patients certainly improves your chances of success.
I routinely show up 15 – 30 minutes before the first patient arrives at many of the offices I work with. This is an opportunity for me to see how the day gets started. Often times I observe staff showing up only a couple of minutes before the first patient. They walk in half jogging to their post. They scramble to turn on their computer or pull the covers off all of the diagnostic equipment right as the first patient is walking through the door. Even more strikingly, many doctors time the arrival of the first patient coming into their exam room with their own arrival. They walk into the room as they are putting on their coat and begin fumbling through the chart. From a patient perspective, this leaves a less than perfect impression of your practice. Those patients that schedule the first appointment of the day with your practice are typically the most sensitive about good patient flow and coordination within your practice.
A morning huddle helps you prepare for your day in a couple of ways.
1. A huddle helps increase the likelihood that everyone will be there on time.
2. It is an opportunity to review the schedule and anticipate challenges. You can annotate special requests like specific diagnostic tests so that these are performed before the patient walks in the exam room rather than after. (This causes a lot of patient flow issues.)
3. It gives you and your team a chance to reflect on what worked and didn’t work from the previous day so you can begin to create a culture of learning and continuous improvement.
4. Finally, it keeps reminding the team that they are a team. It shows everyone that the role they play is an integral role in the care of the patient.
Huddles don’t have to be long; five to ten minutes tops. They don’t have to happen in the morning either, although I recommend that they do because it’s a great way to ensure that everyone shows up on time. A lot of practice owner’s don’t like to do huddles because they require some degree of overtime pay every week. From experience working with many practices across the country, the productivity gains you will make through better coordination will outweigh the cost of overtime.