Productive Meetings Can Energize the Medical Practice

If you're one of those individuals – and there are many – who cringe at the prospect of yet another staff or department meeting, you can take heart that you're not alone in that regard. Or, you can do something about it, and your medical practice will be better for the change.

If you’re one of those individuals — and there are many – who cringe at the prospect of yet another staff or department meeting, you can take heart that you’re not alone in that regard. Or, you can do something about it, and your medical practice will be better for the change.

“I’ve been in meetings that were so boring,” explains Charlene Mooney, a practice consultant with Halley Consulting Group, who has more than 25 years of experience in the “back office” operations of medical practices. “People get in there and just go off about their own agenda, and nothing gets accomplished. It’s actually very painful.”

But if the proper infrastructure is established, Mooney says, people will actually look forward to them.

“If done the right way, they can be very productive.”

Establish the ground rules

Mooney recommends that meetings definitely should be scheduled, and there should be a timeframe attached to them. There should always be an agenda, and that agenda should be adhered to—perhaps even sent out to participants prior to the meeting so everyone shows up prepared. And the practice manager, or whoever conducting the meeting in the office, needs to stick to that agenda and keep people from going off topic.

“There should always be minutes taken at the meeting and distributed to everyone, so there’s an understanding that this is what we discussed, and this was what was decided,” Mooney explains. “And then before the meeting is over, someone needs to say, ‘Okay, today we talked about this topic and this topic, and this is how were moving forward.’”

Mooney says that full staff meetings should be held once a month, and should last for approximately an hour, though physicians may leave at some point allowing staff to continue on their own. Adherence to time is also very important.

“It’s very important to always start and end on time,” she says. “That shows you respect people’s schedules and that you do keep things in control. And if something additional comes up, maybe you can discuss that the following day, or have a phone conference. The key is to keep meetings from dragging on, and from getting off topic.”

A formalized plan

Mooney has developed a meeting template—an action plan, of sorts—to help practices stay on task and lead to more productive meetings. The template consists of 5 categories that will be discussed at each meeting. For example, in the financial category, each meeting will include a review of accounts receivable over the most recent month. Another category is revenue. The practice may establish a goal or 2 of how it plans to increase revenue—extending hours, offering same day appointments, and so on.

“Then you determine who’s responsible for making sure that happens,” Mooney says. “And when we come back for next month’s meeting, we’re going to see how we did.”

A third category is expenses—how can the practice reduce expenses? That might include researching vendors to make sure the practice is getting the best price for medical supplies. Or a plan to reduce overtime, that can then be reviewed for comparison purposes the following month.

“Customer service is another category,” Mooney says. “What customer service goals do we want to have for the practice? Should we do a patient satisfaction survey? And if so, who will handle that? Then we can check back the following month to see what progress we made. We hold ourselves accountable.”

Mooney recalls one meeting where a nurse practitioner stated that she had increased her schedule by 3 hours a week, and was able to accommodate more patients. The NP said she felt “really good” about what she was able to contribute.

“I’ve found that providers get really excited about this.”

The 10-minute huddle

Mooney also recommends implementing a team huddle; a 10-minute meeting at the start of each week before office hours that could comprise just the physicians, or just the office staff. It’s an opportunity to quickly bring everyone up to speed regarding on-going changes, like a new insurance carrier.

“Everyone gets together, brings their coffee, and stands in a circle,” she says. “You do a quick throw-out of what’s going on, quick announcements.”

It’s also a good opportunity to recognize staff for a job well done.

“I think every meeting should have some form of recognition,” Mooney says. “What’s really powerful is when a provider will compliment a staff person. It could be that a patient had said positive things about a staff member, or simply a pat on the back to staff for a job well done. Any kind of recognition, staff really like hearing that.”