Few things can start the day, or the week off worse than a required routine monotonous morning meeting. Maybe you’ve been to meetings like this yourself and you know how they go. People drone on and on about things that no one else is really interested in. It is just that there is an expectation that everyone will say something when no one wants to, or even prepares to speak. Such meetings have been the bane of many of my jobs and it is rare that I’ve found respites. There was one exception I can remember. I once had a manager who hated these meetings as much as anyone else. He still had to run them, so he would start every meeting with, “Any old business? Any new business? Okay, then. Let’s go out and get ‘em”. You had to be quick, motivated, and prepared if you had any something you felt was important and needed to be brought up in the meeting.
It never occurred to me that meetings like this could exist in the medical profession. When I went to a doctor when I was younger, I always thought of it as visits to some oracle with various people running around him, and not as part of a team, which centered on me. Yet, team based patient centered medicine is the way primary care is, or at least should be, going. With teams, you need meetings. The question becomes, how do you make them empowering instead of draining.
These meetings, often called ‘huddles’ are done differently by different teams, and part of the quality improvement process at CHC has been to find what has worked best from each team’s huddle and to share the experiences so each team’s huddle can be as effective as possible. This includes having medical assistants gather information about patients coming in during the day so that the whole team can review the details and be sure that nothing is missed.
You see, many people, myself included, put off going to the doctor until there is something that really needs to be taken care of. So, when we do make it to the doctor’s office, a good medical team will focus not only on the sore throat or other condition that brought us to the office, but all the other things that should be checked, like how we are doing controlling our blood pressure, diabetes, or other conditions and whether or not we went to the specialist we had been referred to at a previous appointment. If we’ve been to a specialist, a good medical assistant will have gotten the results and made sure that our charts are up to date and the nurses and doctors know everything they need to know to give us the best possible service.
The quality improvement process has gathered best practices for huddles and has been sharing them with all the teams. This means the medical teams are less likely to have a routine monotonous morning meeting. Instead, they are empowered to meet patients, ready to tackle both the immediate and long term health issues. Not only does this do away with one of the things that can start the day off badly, but it addresses something even worse, having patients and providers waiting as medical assistants scramble to gather and communicate important health information that could have been gathered and discussed earlier. Less waiting means a better experience for everyone.