It all started with a text.
Explore this issue:September 2016
Marguerite Wood, the practice administrator of ENT of Oklahoma, based in Lawton, Oklahoma, saw a text asking about any openings in her office. The young daughter of a friend of a friend was experiencing ear pain.
“They had gone to the emergency room, but the ER doctor there wanted them to see an ENT instead,” said Wood. “We were completely full that day, and the mom wasn’t giving any details about the ER visit.” Instead, Wood and the staff nurses asked questions about how long the pain had lasted, whether the seven-year-old patient had been taking any antibiotics, and so on. After a lot of fact-finding, Wood was able to work with the practice staff to get the patient in to see one of the practice’s physicians.
The girl was diagnosed with extensive acute otitis externa that was “so bad, they couldn’t clean it out—she had surgery the following day to insert an Otowick,” said Wood. “The ER had never contacted us since the patient went there over the weekend and our schedule was full; however, based on the child’s age and acute condition, we were able to work her in as an emergency patient.”
Wood said that her practice held a quick meeting—known in their office as a “huddle”—to discuss the scenario; it helped the practice develop a plan on how to handle future emergency work-ins for other patients. “It was so we could bring a renewed awareness to the quality of care for our patients,” she said.
This is just one example of how staff meetings, whether fluid or formalized, can help establish new policies, shape the way an effective medical practice runs, and further refine how it can best serve patients. Useful staff meetings that don’t waste time are a great way to hear and convey information that can keep your medical office working at its best.
How can your meetings improve?
Tip 1: Tailor Meeting Lengths to Agenda Items
Staff meetings can range in focus. Some are extensive and involve the entire group of professionals who work in an office discussing a full agenda of items. Others are shorter, focused on a single topic, and scheduled on the fly.
“We have a regular staff meeting once a month, but in the back of my mind, I always want to not have staff meetings because they represent lost income, lost time, the potential for fast aggravation,” said Winston Vaughan, MD, founder and director of the California Sinus Centers in the San Francisco Bay area. “I don’t find them to be super productive for productive people.”