As a result of an unintended consequence of today’s complex layers of practice environment, we have initiated a daily huddle as an indispensable tool for improving our professional and financial outcomes. For those who have not yet participated in or observed the advantages of having a daily huddle, exploring the commitment, barriers and benefits will be valuable.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A TEAM HUDDLE? Essentially, a team Morning Huddle is a short gathering of all team members to review the activities assigned to patients’ exposure to the office as well as to highlight any problems that arose from the previous day’s schedule. A designated leader is appointed to be in charge of the program, perhaps the treatment coordinator, office manager or clinical team leader. In some offices, we rotate responsibilities on a weekly basis through the attending staff. We suggest that it not be the dentist, as this tends to limit the frank interchange of ideas and issues from the team. We want to encourage full participatory dialogue.
The absolute prerequisite for a successful huddle is prior preparation by the individuals involved. The participants and their commitment could include the following:
A. The hygienist arrives at The Morning Huddle having briefly audited the charts of the day’s patients which provide an opportunity for the hygienist to request assistance to provide support for full mouth probing and charting. In addition, the assistant is available to take radiographs, full mouth series, panoramic x-rays (PAN), or full periodontal charting as needed.
B. Clinical Assistants similarly review the upcoming patient load with the view to any special requirements related to previous appointment and potential problems.
C. Greeters and Dismissers also acquaint themselves of any balances on accounts and review any family members of patients who may be overdue. Generally, the team members should be informed of family milestone events that were mentioned in the previous appointment.
D. Communal discussion ensues by the complete team who will communicate with an individual patient or family on whether previously recommended treatment has not been accessed or inquire as to how the patient is managing with newly acquired prosthesis.
WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS TO INITIATING THE MORNING HUDDLE? The Morning Huddle requires increased time commitments to prepare for and deliver a short information meeting prior to the onslaught of patients. Sometimes, resistance to committing to giving extra time for preparation for the day with The Morning Huddle poses an obstacle to imposing yet another obligation to the team.
Typical excuses and concerns revolve around objections such as the following:
1. I don’t want to get to the office 15 minutes earlier;2. I don’t want to take the time from my production schedule;3. I don’t think we will gain anything;4. Some team members start at different times of the day;5. I don’t want to pay staff extra for their time; or6. A standard response from people who resist change at any cost: “We have been operating without a Huddle for many years; I don’t think we need one.” To this, our favorite rejoinder to highly integrated staff that in reality regarding this subject is they “don’t know enough to know what they don’t know”. Actually, however, the advantages of The Morning Huddle, more than anything, displaces the myth of being too busy to incorporate it into our schedule.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE MORNING HUDDLE?The benefits of the Morning Huddle on both the team and patients’ perception is positive.
The Team’s PerceptionAll staff members have a clear indication of what they have to prepare for the arrival of each patient in their department. For example:
Typically, the meeting begins with yesterday’s feedback, internal and external concerns from the doctor’s and hygienist’s schedule followed by a discussion of today’s schedule – confirmation with the view to looking for opportunities for moving patients from hygiene into any late openings in the doctor’s schedule. In addition, the team reviews any emergency patient information to choose the best time to schedule these emergencies and specific exams.
Patients’ PerceptionThe beneficial effects of “Operation” Morning Huddle are apparent not only to clinical and administrative personnel, but also to the importance of patients’ perspective. The preparation for the day encourages a positive impression of a confident patient-focused office. Within a group setting, this format remedies and prevents glitches in patients’ exchange with the team. Moreover, with everyone in attendance, it prepares the future of the day by avoiding costly mistakes to staff performance. The team understands and offers assistance contributing to a surprise-free clinical day as one can reasonably expect from a dental practice.
The Morning Huddle is a win-win exercise; therefore, a serious attempt should be made to implement this modality as an integral part of the everyday practice going forward. Avoid a “muddle” day by instituting a Morning Huddle for a reduced stress day. PA
Ron Weintraub is a founding partner with the Bayview Village & Downtown Dental Associates and brings over thirty-five years of knowledge and experience in the practice of general dentistry to The Professional Advisory. Large companies such as Patterson Dental, Ash Temple Ltd, Henry Schein Arcona, & the former Canadian Dental Co. have benefited from his insight. As owner of Innovative Practice Solutions, Ron advises dentists on practice enhancement, practice purchases, sales, location evaluations, associate buy-ins, and business mergers. Dr. Weintraub can be contacted at (905) 470-6222 Ext. 221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.