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Three Tips To Make Your Patient Safety Huddles More Effective

by Daniel Wasser, MD, Director of Clinical Integration, Grand Round Table

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.

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 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.  

Based on our experience providing the 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.  

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...

Schedule a consistent time and huddle location that integrate smoothly into the practice’s workflow. Many practices conduct huddles before clinic sessions start, typically for 5 to 15 minutes. Initial experimentation with times and flexibility is key! The ideal location is a convenient spot where the team can fit comfortably and talk freely about patients--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 charts to compile patient summaries.  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

Include the right people and roles on the huddle team to reap the full benefits.

Engage the right people, including team members such as case managers, and social workers in order to yield the most valuable input to clinic flow and patient needs.

Designate a huddle leader to ensure that the huddles are conducted regularly and efficiently.  Some practices find more success when the leader rotates, but others find it more beneficial with the leader as a permanent role.  Additionally, practices have found success designating a nurse or medical assistant to champion huddles.  They 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 evolve over time.

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. 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 ensure 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/.

References

Chen, 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.

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.

Picciano, A. "Benefits of Huddle Implementation in the Family Medicine Center - STFM." 2013. <https://www.stfm.org/fmhub/fm2013/July/Anne501.pdf>

"Huddles: Improve Office Efficiency in Mere Minutes - Family Practice ..." 2007.<http://www.aafp.org/fpm/2007/0600/p27.html>

Rodriguez HP, et al. Health Care Manage Rev. 2015;40(4):286-99.

UCSF Center for Excellence in Primary Care. Health Huddles. 2013. https://cepc.ucsf.edu/healthy-huddles. Accessed July 14, 2016.

Fogarty CT, Schutlz S. Clin Teach. 2010;7(3):157-60.

Ladden MD, et al. Acad Med. 2013;88(12):1830-4.

Dr Wasser is the Director of Clinical Integration and physician peer-to-peer ambassador for Grand Round Table.  He is a strong believer that health IT companies must do more to listen to healthcare professionals and administrators in order to be able to solve today's most pressing healthcare challenges. Dr. Wasser received his medical degree from Tel Aviv University and his BA from Cornell University.  He can be reached at d.wasser@grandroundtable.com.

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