Why you need a daily huddle

May 1, 2003
In medicine, it's called record rounds; in the corporate world, it's a daily briefing; and, in football, it's the huddle.

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH

In medicine, it's called record rounds; in the corporate world, it's a daily briefing; and, in football, it's the huddle. Whatever you call it, successful organizations know that to get the most out of every day, you must "begin with the end in mind." Engineering the day for maximum efficiency creates an environment with minimal stress.

As a practicing hygienist for more that 30 years, I lived many stressful dental days. As a management consultant, I observe daily stressful scenarios over and over in dental offices across the country. I also observe that those dental teams with a daily planning meeting not only function on a more even keel, but they are significantly more productive.

Case in point: Recently, I recommended a 10-minute meeting to a new client. The doctor hesitated and said, "Please don't ask me to do another meeting. We've tried this before and it really did not do much good." I asked him to try my outline for one month, and if he could show me at the end of that period that there was no benefit, I would not mention it again. He agreed. (This is a very successful dentist with a highly productive 20-plus years in practice.) At the end of the first month, the doctor reported an 18 percent increase in production. He attributed it directly to the morning meeting and the auditing of his patient records, with assistants and hygienists identifying the dental treatment that had never been completed. The doctor said that he was astonished to discover a large amount of needed dental treatment that had not been performed. During the busy day-to-day rush, this doctor had assumed that all the patients were up-to-date with their dental work.

In addition to improved doctor production, hygiene production increased by 37 percent because the hygienists were auditing patient records for overdue FMX, unperformed dental treatment, perio problems, and other services.

As you review this information, keep in mind that the daily huddle does not take the place of regular staff meetings. Typically, the business coordinator facilitates the morning huddles to assure a timely start and finish in 10 to 15 minutes. Review records of patients scheduled that day to be sure that everything is prepared for their visit. Hygiene should review for perio exams, radiographs, histories (including an updated medical history), and dental treatment that has not been scheduled. Scanning charts for overdue family members also helps to keep recall current.

The financial coordinator alerts other staff members about any financial concerns, and the scheduling administrator reports any changes in the schedule. Scheduling for emergencies, filling open time with status exams, and routing patients between doctor and hygiene can solve unforeseen scheduling difficulties. Designate patients who are due for a status exam or a new-patient exam. These are the patients who come in regularly for routine care and have received a five-minute hygiene check for the past 15 years. You will be amazed at the amount of dentistry that will be discovered, scheduled, and paid for when the appropriate amount of exam time is designated. It often takes more time to ask the questions, listen to the patient, show the audiovisuals and the before and after photos, perform a comprehensive evaluation, and really bring things up-to-date. This is the best way to fill a cancelled appointment or open time in the appointment book.

A brief discussion about the backgrounds of new patients being seen that day provides a "heads up" to the whole team on referral sources.

Finally, end the meeting with a thank you to everyone and a reminder of one of my basic rules for building a great team — we agree to "catch" each other doing something right every day!

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH, is a recognized leader in the field and an award-winning speaker and consultant. Since 1989, she has presented more than 250 seminars and consulted in dental practices throughout the world. She is a featured speaker at dental meetings and provides in--office consulting services with her team of business and clinical consultants. She may be reached at her Web site at AnnetteLinder.com, via email at [email protected], or by phone at (804) 745-6015.

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