It’s Monday morning, the phones are ringing off the hook, the schedule is fully booked, there’s a line of patients at the check in desk — everyone in the office begins frantically seeing patients immediately. Bottlenecks start within an hour as the computer network goes down, the medical assistant called in sick, a lab report went missing, one of the physicians had to leave early for a meeting, and by lunch, everyone is stressed out and running behind. Does this scenario sound familiar?
What is a Huddle?
When it comes to teamwork, the game of football can provide an important lesson. A quick huddle ensures that everyone is on the same page. While some might think a brief morning meeting is hardly the solution; surprisingly, team huddles have shown to result in improved communication and help solve practice challenges, before they happen. Huddles are simply very short, daily meetings that take place at the beginning of every day that last no more than 10 minutes.
What is the Purpose of a Huddle?
The purpose of a huddle is to enable a practice to anticipate their needs and manage issues before they happen, plan for changes in the daily workflow, and make adjustments that improve patients’ care. The goal for a huddle is to be an efficient and effective technique to anticipate patient needs and for communicating practice workflow.
How Can a Physician Practice Benefit from a Huddle?
Daily huddles require a minimal amount of time investment and can help address many important practice issues. Many practices have reported significant improvements after implementing huddles.
Huddles help to eliminate, or reduce the adverse impact of the following situations:
- Scheduling challenges related to providers’ availability
- Equipment malfunctions
- Missing LAB results
- Schedule adjustments for patients that need additional time and assistance
- Employee shortages due to illnesses, vacations, and family emergencies
- Schedule changes due to cancellations or no-shows, computer systems issues, or other external factors.
How to Implement a Huddle?
Huddles are not a new idea; the concept has been promoted by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and other healthcare organizations for a long time. Here are 7 essential best practices for a daily huddle:
- Check for patients on the schedule who may require more time and assistance due to age, disability, personality, or language barriers
- Check for lengthy back-to-back appointments
- Check for openings in the schedule that can be filled
- Discuss any special instructions for the scheduler
- Check provider and staff schedules. Does anyone need to leave early?
- Ensure lab results, test results, and notes from other physicians are available and in the patient’s chart
- Ensure exam rooms and stocked with needed supplies and equipment