Five Best Practices to Holding a Daily Huddle to Reduce Stress in Your Practice

Physician burnout continues to be an issue and has only increased after COVID-19 hit. In fact, up to 30% of clinicians report thinking about leaving the profession at times, citing burnout as one of the reasons why. Burnout can result in depression, substance abuse, family disfunction, and thoughts of suicide. A simple tool, however, can reduce stress throughout a practice. It’s the daily huddle.

In honor of National Stress Awareness Day on November 3, Kareo interviewed Paul DeChant, MD, MBA, a physician, healthcare executive and leadership coach. “One of the easiest remedies for stress and burnout is to set up a brief daily huddle with all staff members in your practice,” he says. “The huddle needs to be scheduled at the same time every day and start precisely on time. People who aren’t present can join virtually on a Zoom or conference call. You can skip the huddle if you’re having a weekly meeting that day.

The huddle only needs to last 15 minutes and ideally follows a standard format. Here are five best practices for a productive and satisfying daily huddle:

1. Honor someone.

Use the first minute to show appreciation or recognize life events. Did the front office person go the extra mile to put a patient at ease? Did the janitor stay late to restock cupboards? Did a doctor’s son get engaged, or a nurse complete a major certification? Positive shout-outs boost everyone’s morale and helps build team spirit.

2. Prepare for the day.

How busy is the schedule? Are there times it’s over- or under-booked? Check whether anyone is out sick, and confirm that you have enough staff, supplies and equipment to meet demand. Announce changes in pandemic-related mandates at the national, state, or local level. Share tips for using any new programs or technology if your practice is new to the system.

3. Problem-solving

What problems came up the day before, however small? When something goes wrong - perhaps the copier ran out of toner, or a new technician needed help accessing Kareo. It could be something like a parking annoyance. Whoever experiences the problem posts it on the huddle board to discuss the next day. Think of these small problems as pebbles in your shoes. Even minor irritations add up to cause stress, and as each one is removed, your journey gets a little easier. If a subject requires more than a minute – and many will -- set up a meeting for stakeholders later in the day. Don’t let the huddle turn into a debate or lengthy philosophical discussion.

4. Report on a metric.

For the last few minutes of the huddle, select one quantifiable key performance indicator (KPI) to review. Pick several to focus on over the week, but never more than one a day. For example, report on MIPS and MACRO compliance once a week to maximize reward points. The numbers you need can be found with just a few clicks in Kareo. With accurate data at your fingertips, you’ll have a good idea of where to steer the practice for better efficiencies and profitability.

5. Hold in a room with a large whiteboard.

Team members can make notes on the board for the day ahead. They can also write progress to metrics being targeted that week. The white board can serve as a communications hub, encouraging everyone to stay mindful of group goals.

According to Dr. DeChant, there are many benefits to effective daily huddles. With daily huddles:
  • You can reduce email volume by 30%. That’s because team members now have a mechanism for bringing up and resolving issues. “This alone makes huddles worthwhile,” he says.
  • Problems can be solved more effectively and efficiently since solutions and responsibilities are shared across the entire team.
  • Relationships improve, as everyone connects on a regular basis and learns to both ask for and give help to one another.
  • The concept tends to spread organically, especially in larger organizations. Once individuals discover how effective huddles can be in countering burnout, they start holding them every day with their own direct reports.

“Physicians face so many external stressors these days that add up, like straws on a camel’s back, to drive burnout,” says Dr. DeChant. “The opposite of burnout is professional fulfillment – doing work that feels truly meaningful. That’s what everyone wants. A 15-minute daily huddle can contribute to professional fulfillment by reducing those stressors, and everyone wins.”

For more information on the topic of physician burnout, check out Preventing Physician Burnout: Curing the Chaos and Returning Joy to the Practice of Medicine by Paul DeChant, MD, MBA and Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH. For more tips on how to save time in your practice, download our free e-guide here.

About the Author

Alesa Lightbourne is a prize-winning author, professor and former dean of an international business school. As a freelance writer, her clients have included Fortune...

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