The Huddle: Choreographing Your Day

March 21, 2012

January 2010 | dentalproductsreport.comWEB EXCLUSIVE

January 2010 | dentalproductsreport.com
WEB EXCLUSIVE

The Huddle: 

Choreographing your day

Don't be a victim of chaos in your practice. Get the team together and get organized.

by Callie Haynes, Pride Institute Consultant

If some of your practice work days feel like a Flying Zucchini Circus or, at other times, as dry and barren as the Sahara desert, then maybe it's time for you to implement the Morning Huddle system. The purpose of an effective huddle is to ensure that you can provide seamless delivery of service to your patients, share important information about patients and processes and catch potential service or efficiency glitches before they happen. When the huddle is done effectively, it is a short and highly focused meeting that provides an overview and game plan for your day. No more circus!

The essentials
Essential components of an effective huddle include:

  • The entire team-including dentist(s)-must attend.
  • Everybody must be prepared ahead of time and arrive on time.
  • Every team member should have a copy of the previous day's schedule and a copy of the current day's schedule.
  • Every team member-except for the dentist(s)-must have a copy of his or her completed huddle preparation form. This is a checklist of items for them to review.
  • Patients charts must be readily available, whether they are virtual or paper charts.
  • Each person should have a highlighter or pen ready to make notes on his or her schedule.
  • The huddle facilitator (rotate team members) leads the team through a focused agenda.
  • The huddle ends with an inspirational quote so that the team leaves focused and motivated.

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The execution
Important principles of an effective huddle include:

  • It is 15-30 minutes long.
  • Spotlight any scheduling, customer service, financial or clinical concerns for the day.
  • Identify times when the dentist(s) can do periodic exams in dental hygiene.
  • Reveal information about patients' health conditions, clinical needs, motivators and concerns.
  • Share information about new patients.
  • Identify potential times for emergency patients.
  • Identify which patients can or should be asked for referrals and who on the team will ask.

Get the picture?
By now, a certain picture should be developing: Effective huddles don't just happen. They require preparation and organization. Rather than hoping that the team will find some time before they're busy with patient care or at some time throughout the day, we recommend scheduling regular, dedicated administrative time-typically 30 minutes. This way, team members are not trying to prepare for the next day when they are busy with their current day. Dedicated time eliminates that pressure.

Timing is everything
Ideally, administrative time is at the same time every day-patients are not in the office, the phones are not answered, and if team members have finished their preparation they understand that they are expected to assist other team members. This way, the entire team finishes admin time at the same time. 

Typical times for admin time are at the end of the day or right after lunch. Because the last appointment of the day is popular with patients, some team prefer to have the huddle right after lunch.

Stay focused
The only way admin time works is to not violate the time by using it to do things other than prepping for the next day. This means not extending treatment on patients and not using the time for emergency patients. This time should be pre-blocked in the schedule just like staff meetings and lunch. The whole team needs to make a commitment to preserving and honoring this time and using it for its intended purposes.

This focused admin time pays off by your next day being more predictable-predictable  because it is organized! This creates a much calmer atmosphere and reduces stress for team members and patients. It enriches customer service because any potential glitches have been identified and fixed before they happen. Patients recognize a well-prepared team and appreciate the preparation behind the visit. The team is not flying by the seat of its collective pants. 

Don't be afraid
Many employers have fears about losing production because of administrative time and huddles. Our statistics show that practices committed to this time enjoy increased production over time, increased collections (because accounts have been reviewed in advance and the front desk team is prepared to collect), increased patient satisfaction, and in the end-more referrals and happier, less stressed dentists and team members.

Try it and see for yourself!