Do you cringe when you hear the phrase “office meeting”? Some medical practices meet too frequently and some seldom meet, but others have it just right – routine meetings with preparation, an agenda, and follow-up. Your practice can get it right, too.
And make no mistake, meetings are important. Medical practices, regardless of size, have a variety of positions that are not interchangeable, but do interact throughout the day.
To make sure interactions go smoothly you need to meet with the staff to identify issues and slowdowns and to develop solutions to meet the needs of the patients, the providers, and the employees.
Many medical practices also complain about a “lack of communication” in their office.
Office meetings satisfy both needs – they can improve communications and serve as a forum for problem solving.
So, why don’t more medical practices regularly hold office meetings?
Probably because past meetings have failed miserably. The usual reason that a meeting fails is because it hasn’t been well planned.
We’ve all attended meetings that became gripe sessions without any problem-solving or resolutions for the issues raised.
We learn quickly from bad meetings that it’s best to just not hold any meeting! But that’s not an appropriate response.
The best response is to resolve to hold better meetings. Doing so is not that hard.
Running an effective meeting requires advance planning. You’ll want your meeting to run on time, to minimize wasted effort in the meeting, to advance the improvement process, provide clarity, and obtain agreement and buy-in to change.
Preparation is more than setting an agenda. The agenda represents those items that must be worked through to achieve the objective for having the meeting.
Let’s look at the agenda format with two sample agenda items below:
|Agenda Item||Reporting Party(s)||Allotted Time||Decision/Next Steps||Person to Handle/Due Date|
|Check-in process to expedite rooming the patient||Front desk supervisor, nurse manager||30 minutes||Recommended change/action items||Assign based on discussion|
|Copay collection||Front desk supervisor||15 minutes||Discuss accepting debit cards for payments from patients||Assign based on meeting discussion|
The first item on the agenda focuses on getting patients roomed for the provider as quickly as possible. The goal is to engage everyone in the discussion so that recommended changes are widely understood and accepted among the staff.
In planning the meeting, decide on a reasonable time period to allot to the topic – that should include reasonable estimates for the length of time it will take for reporting, discussion, and decision-making.
The final column on this format is used to manage follow-up activities so that items do not simply continue on from meeting to meeting, and to develop the next meeting agenda.
A good meeting will also have a leader and a facilitator, although sometimes one person fills both roles.
The facilitator makes it possible for a group of people to communicate and to accomplish their task. A facilitator is neutral relative to content, but in charge of the process. He or she makes sure the meeting stays on topic, moves along at a reasonable pace, doesn’t get hung up for too long on one aspect of the topic under discussion, and makes sure the discussion doesn’t get “personal” and that tempers are kept in check.
The meeting leader is the person who calls the meeting, runs the meeting , and contributes content. In most offices, the physician is the meeting leader, although sometimes it is the office manager.
For some meetings you may decide to take a directive approach as leader; for others, you may decide to simply serve a consultative role as facilitator and let someone else run the meeting. Often that decision will depend on what the meeting is about. It’s also possible that in a meeting with more than one agenda item, you’ll switch between roles.
In our sample agenda item about copay collection, as leader you will have decided to accept debit cards and assign the follow-up to get enrolled with your bank to one of your staff members. You may find a consultative approach will work best to resolve the front-back teamwork around the item about check-in process, and therefore you’ll facilitate a discussion that is led by the front desk supervisor and nurse manager.
Successful meetings result in a more informed and engaged staff, and with documented action items that can be followed to the next meeting.
So stop cringing and schedule your next office meeting!
Rosemarie Nelson is a principal with the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group.