Why you need a daily huddle

May 1, 2006
In medicine it’s called “record rounds,” in the corporate world it’s a “daily briefing,” and in football, it’s the “huddle.

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 in order to get the most out of every day, you must “begin with the end in mind.” It makes no sense getting on the bus if you have no idea where the bus is going. Engineering the day for maximum efficiency creates an environment with minimum stress.

As a practicing hygienist for more than 30 years, I lived many stressful dental days. As a management consultant, I observe daily stressful scenarios over and over again in dental offices all across the country. I also have observed that those dental teams with a daily planning meeting not only function on a more even keel, but 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. If he could show me at the end of that period that there was no benefit to the daily morning huddles, I told him I would not mention it again. He agreed. (Note: This is a very successful dentist with a highly productive 20+ year practice.)

At the end of the first month, the doctor reported an 18 percent increase in production. He attributed it directly to the daily morning meetings and the auditing of his patient records, with doctor, assistants, and hygienists identifying the dental treatment that had not been completed. The doctor said that he was astonished to discover a large amount of undone dentistry. During the busy day-to-day rush, this doctor assumed that all of the patients were up-to-date in their dental work.

In addition to doctor production, hygiene production increased by 37 percent. The hygienists were auditing patient records for overdue FMX, undone dental treatment, periodontal examinations and treatment recommendations, along with other services such as adult fluorides, tooth whitening , and cosmetic recommendations.

As you review this information, please keep in mind that the daily huddle meeting does not take the place of regular staff meetings. These meetings are not the place for whining or complaining. You must adhere to a strict format and schedule. 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 everything is prepared for their visit. Hygiene will review for perio exams, radiographs, histories (including updated medical), and undone dentistry. Scanning charts for overdue family members helps to keep the recall current. The financial coordinator’s role is to note any financial concerns, and the scheduling administrator should report 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 examination. These are the patients who come in regularly for routine care and have received a five-minute (in the hygiene chair) periodic oral exam/hygiene check exam for the last 15 years. You will be amazed at the amount of dentistry that will be discovered, scheduled, and paid for when the appropriate amount of time is designated. It often takes more time to ask the questions, listen to the patient, and show the audiovisuals and “before and after photos” during a comprehensive evaluation, and really brings things up-to-date. This is the best way to fill a doctor cancellation or open time slot.

A brief discussion with background on new patients being seen that day gives a “heads up” to the whole team on referral sources. If a daily goal has been set, a quick reminder and review offer the boost needed to meet the goal.

Finally, end the meeting with a thank you to everyone on the team, along with 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. 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 e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at (772) 546-2207.

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