Can Healthcare Team Huddles Do Anything To Improve the Patient Experience?

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Myth or Not: Team Huddles Improve the Patient Experience

Myths Debunked

We’ve been doing some Myth Debunking over the last few weeks. Here’s where we’ve been, just in case you missed a week, or you’d like to revisit.

Week One: We found solid evidence that senior healthcare patients ARE using email and other digital technologies. It’s NOT true that older patients do not have, or are not willing to share their email address.

Week Two: We learned that humans have a “sixth sense” of sorts to detect body language and confirmed, a genuine smile does indeed make a significant difference (even if seemingly hidden behind a mask).

Week Three: We confirmed referring to patient’s by their preferred name makes a difference and we even included a few pointers on how to improve your name memorization skills.

Week Four: We discovered that with nearly 2 billion people using Facebook, the power to connect with huge numbers of people using social media is not only here, but indeed, social media is essential for the survival of most healthcare organizations.

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This week we’re tackling the topic of “Team Huddles” and exploring the myth of its potential ripple effect on the patient’s positive experience.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Ever heard the tagline, “Team work makes the dream work?” I bet you have. In fact, I bet you’ve quoted it yourself a time or two.

The catchy phrase was gifted to us in 2002 by John C. Maxwell with the publication of his book titled precisely that: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. (1)

“Teams are incredible things. No task is too great, no accomplishment too grand, no dream too far-fetched for a team. It takes teamwork to make a dream work”. John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is quite the leadership guru.

High-functioning, Efficient, Accomplish More

AMA’s Steps Forward released an article dealing specifically with the concept of a group huddle and writes, “This type of daily or twice daily adaptation is beneficial to the entire practice because everyone begins to think like a team.” (2)

There’s that word again: team. Starting your day with a huddle gets everyone on the same page, regardless of whatever unique circumstances and experiences they walked into the office with that day. It creates a congruity and cohesiveness throughout your practice.

Will this positively affect the patient’s experience? Karen A. Funk, MD, MPP, Vice-President Clinical Services, Clinica Family Health Services puts it plainly,

“When the team comes together to plan care on a regular basis, we become more high-functioning and efficient, and accomplish so much more with our patients.” (3)

The Huddle – Small Package, Big Punch

Sue Miller and Adam Duckworth wrote a book titled, Leading Not Normal Volunteers: A Not Normal Guide For Leading Your Incredible, Quirky Team.

Their targeted audience were those in positions of ministry leading a group of volunteers. Nonetheless, we can substitute the word volunteer for employee or associate and the leadership principles translate quite nicely.

They write, “Show up every week. [In this case, every day – in the team huddle]. This is so essential if you are going to lead …to understand that Small is Big. As the leader, you should be present …”

They further elaborate by explaining that it’s not enough to just show up physically – leaders need to be fully present: emotionally, mentally, and in every way.

Showing up daily in the form of a huddle may seem like a small, mundane, or insignificant task to add to the list. Like with most great successes, the rewards come after a series of small, individual choices. A daily team huddle provides leaders the opportunity to cast vision, set the tone, and breathe life into the team before ever even starting the daily tasks.

Miller and Duckworth go on to encourage their readers to practice literally saying their vision out loud over and over until they can say it in a precise, articulate, and passionate way that will excite others. Then, Miller and Duckworth recommend starting each huddle with these life-giving and purpose-driven words. If your employees are fueled with vision, purpose, and meaning in the workplace, your organization will soon experience the ripple effect. Employees that are cared for well, take better care of patients. The result? The patient’s experience improves. (4)

Daily Huddle in Response to Covid-19

The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare published an article just two months ago that talks about the added stressors of Covid-19 to the already high-demands of the medical field, “…The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly brought the challenges faced by the health care system to the forefront. Trust, which is already a challenge in health care, has become more fragile for some organizations, due to the grief, stress, and trauma constraints of this pandemic.”

The article further states, “This is no doubt a frightening time for the industry, but leaders have an opportunity to help and to empower their teams to help one another.”

They go on to say that one solution to these pandemic-related issues is increased communication between health care leaders and their employees, specifically listing a team huddle as an avenue to do so.

The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare concludes their article by stating, “Health care leaders can strengthen trust by finding ways to ease the burden on health care workers, and by communicating clearly and with compassion.” (5)

Now, probably more than ever, healthcare workers need a sense of togetherness and trust that can be achieved through a daily team huddle.


Health Care Management Review took some time to analyze the impact of a consistent team huddle and writes, “Huddles create time and space for conversations, enhance relationships, and strengthen a culture of safety. Huddles can be of particular value to health care organizations seeking or sustaining high reliability.” (6)

In essence, there is a huge benefit to huddling with your team daily that directly affects the patient’s experience for the better. Patients benefit from a team that huddles together.

Confirmed. Team huddles do improve the patient experience.

Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and subscribe to our Email Updates, so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.

Thank you!

Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC.

(1) Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, by John C. Maxwell

(2,3) Daily Team Huddles. Boost Practice Productivity and Team Morale

(4) Leading Not Normal Volunteers: A Not Normal Guide For Leading Your Incredible, Quirky Team. by, Sue Miller and Adam Duckworth. Published in 2016.

(5) An Infusion of Trust: How Health Care Leaders Can Strengthen Safety Culture Within Their Organizations, 06/08/2020

(6) Healthcare Management Review, “Health care huddles: managing complexity to achieve high reliability” , by Shannon M Provost 1, Holly J Lanham, Luci K Leykum, Reuben R McDaniel Jr, Jacqueline Pugh

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