3 Tips to Make Your Patient Safety Huddles More Effective

© Sellen | Dreamstime.com - Group of happy doctors meeting at hospital office.

The time constraints of day-to-day work still present major obstacles to primary care providers making the transition from fee-based to value-based care. Despite the enormous benefits to reimbursement, patient satisfaction, and improved patient outcomes, providers find it difficult to squeeze in any more work at the point of care.1,2

With daily patient safety huddles, practices are finding that they can have their cake and eat it too: Setting aside 10 minutes at the beginning of the day can help practices run their days more efficiently and improve patient outcomes before the day even starts. Practices prepare for their day as a team so that they can focus less on paperwork, and make the most of patient appointments by:

  • Reviewing recent medication changes and updated lab results
  • Assessing which visits are going to be most complex and prep next steps
  • Ensuring that needed screenings and vaccinations are scheduled ahead of time
  • Addressing recent orders that have not been closed in advance of the visit

More than 80% of primary care providers and supporting medical staff report that patient safety huddles improve communication, patient safety and continuity of care.3

Based on our experience providing Clinical Assistant as a solution to help facilitate daily patient safety huddles for our clients while addressing value-based compliance requirements including care coordination, clinical decision support, and test tracking and follow-up, we’ve picked up a few tips on how to implement patient safety huddles most effectively.4-6

  1. Establish a routine

    As with any goal, good intentions are not worth much without a plan. We don’t have to look further than failed New Year’s resolutions as a reminder...

    For these reasons, practices have found it valuable to schedule a consistent time and huddle location for the huddles that integrates smoothly into the practice’s workflow. Many practices conduct huddles before clinic sessions start, typically for 5 to 15 minutes.4 These practices noted that initial experimentation with times was necessary, and that flexibility is key! The ideal location is a convenient spot where the team can fit comfortably and talk freely about patients,5,6,8 for example, a nurses’ station or work room.

    Another key barrier in establishing this routine is the administrative demand necessary to maintain it. Before our clients started using the Clinical Assistant, their care teams would each spend up to 30 minutes a day digging through the chart to compile patient summaries for the huddle.

    The Clinical Assistant solves this problem by automatically compiling and delivering the report to the care team by email. By eliminating this huddle preparation time, our clients find it easier to establish and reinforce this routine.

  2. Build the right team

    Including the right people and roles on the huddle team is critical in reaping the full benefits.

    Engaging the right people, including team members such as case managers, and social workers, etc. yields the most valuable input to clinic flow and patient needs.4,6,8

    Designating a huddle leader is critical for ensuring that the huddles are conducted regularly and efficiently.4,7,8 Some practices find more success when the leader rotates, but others find it more beneficial with the leader being a permanent role. Additionally, practices have found success designating a nurse or MA to champion huddles.4,6They believe this provides continuity and builds teamwork.

  3. Evolve and improve over time

    As with any change, difficulties may arise at first, but as long as the team’s opinions are heard and leadership is committed, positive results and increased acceptance will be seen over time.

    In order to develop more meaningful huddles, some find it helpful to use coaches, from outside of the care team to review the checklist and provide impartial feedback. This can also help to increase team engagement. Coaches find that when huddles are brief and high-yield for all involved, participants are more likely to engage. They help to explore barriers to participation, and consider ways to make the huddles more valuable.4-6 Lastly, sharing positive results will help the team see the value of the huddles, and team members will become more engaged when they see the difference that it is making for their patients!

    At Grand Round Table, we help leadership monitor the effectiveness of their huddles, encourage best practices, and make regular upgrades to the Clinical Assistant in facilitating huddles based on feedback from care teams to make sure that together we keep engagement high and make everyone’s life a little less hectic.

To learn more about how Clinical Assistant can help practices meet a range of valued-based payment requirements, such as PCMH and ACO, and sign up for a free trial for your care teams find us at http://clinicalassistant.co.

1Chen, Melinda A et al. "Patient care outside of office visits: a primary care physician time study." Journal of general internal medicine 26.1 (2011): 58-63.
2 Van Der Sijs, Heleen et al. "Overriding of drug safety alerts in computerized physician order entry." Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 13.2 (2006): 138-147.
3 Picciano, A. "Benefits of Huddle Implementation in the Family Medicine Center - STFM." 2013. <https://www.stfm.org/fmhub/fm2013/July/Anne501.pdf>
4"Huddles: Improve Office Efficiency in Mere Minutes - Family Practice ..." 2007.<http://www.aafp.org/fpm/2007/0600/p27.html>
5 Rodriguez HP, et al. Health Care Manage Rev. 2015;40(4):286-99.
6 UCSF Center for Excellence in Primary Care. Health Huddles. 2013. https://cepc.ucsf.edu/healthy-huddles. Accessed July 14, 2016.
7 Fogarty CT, Schutlz S. Clin Teach. 2010;7(3):157-60.
8 Ladden MD, et al. Acad Med. 2013;88(12):1830-4.

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Daniel Wasser, MD

Daniel Wasser, MD, is a General Practitioner and Physician Ambassador for Grand Round Table. He is a firm believer that practices must proactively engage with EHR and clinical decision support to ensure that their unique needs are incorporated into the next generation of EHR technology.