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How to make staff meetings work

Oct. 1, 2006
In last month’s issue, we discussed how to make staff meetings work, and the amazing results that can be achieved from this small commitment of time and energy.
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In last month’s issue, we discussed how to make staff meetings work, and the amazing results that can be achieved from this small commitment of time and energy.

This month, we will look at four different types of meetings, and how each has a role to play in making a positive and lasting impact on your practice.

The Four Types of Meetings

  1. The Huddle - Start each day the right way.
  2. The Numbers Meeting - Are you meeting your goals?
  3. The Training Meeting - Making a great staff even better.
  4. The Teamwork Meeting - Working ON the practice, together.

The huddle

Dental teams love productive, well-run huddles. Why wouldn’t they? In 15 short minutes this strategy session can turn a “so-so” day into a great one!

What to bring

  • Huddle checklist.
  • Charts and information applying to patient coordination, such as the Telephone Communication Slip for new patients being seen that day.
  • A copy of the daily schedule for each staff member.
  • Pens and highlighters for all.
  • Tickler file (box with notes or computerized daily tickler report).
  • Agenda for the next staff meeting. (Always have an agenda posted where you huddle for easy access to add meeting topics that may come up during the huddle.)
  • A positive attitude.
  • Guidelines
  • Meet 10 to 15 minutes each day prior to the arrival of patients.
  • Huddle away from patients. Meet in the staff room or the doctor’s private office.
  • Stand up! This improves time management.
  • Place a sign at the front desk (an 8 x 10 frame works well) asking patients to make themselves comfortable, and that you will be with them at their appointed time. This minimizes the urge to greet patients during the huddle.
  • Rotate facilitators on a weekly basis.
  • As the facilitator, prompt each department to give input as outlined on the Huddle Checklist.
  • Place the telephone on the answering machine or service.
  • Discuss any coordination of efforts necessary to make the day flow better and improve the patients’ experience.
  • Appreciate and acknowledge one another.
  • Preparing for the huddlePull charts two days prior to the patient visit.During the chart review, list patient notes on the Chart Review Checklist.Presentation during the huddle
  • Be concise. Only report information that is important for other staff members to know.
  • Be proactive. Ask the doctor and appropriate staff for necessary support.
  • Keep the Chart Review Checklist or Post-it note inside the patient chart and out of the patient’s view.
  • Take all charts to the front desk after the huddle, where they remain until the patient arrives. This keeps charts readily available for any necessary documentation that may occur as a result of last-minute cancellations or no-shows.
  • Important huddle toolsThe Huddle Checklist
    This checklist is the cornerstone of a great huddle. It is comprehensive, it directs staff members from each department to report on specific items that impact others, and it is a great time-management tool.
  • Previous day’s report
  • What went well
  • Trouble spots/challenges
  • Appointment Administrator Report
  • Anticipated production for today
  • Where to schedule emergencies
  • Suggestions for filling open time today
  • Next available production block
  • Next available new patient exam preblock
  • Next available new patient prophy and/or scaling/root planing preblock
  • New patient information per the Telephone Communication Slip
  • I will ask _________________ for a referral today
  • Financial Coordinator Report
  • Results from previous day’s payment arrangements
  • Anticipated payment arrangements/consultation
  • Coordinate support from other team members
  • Collecting from patients
  • Front-desk coverage
  • Weekly report of month-to-date collections
  • Administrative meeting time with doctor to prepare for consultations
  • I will ask _________________ for a referral today
  • Hygienist Report
  • Today’s patient information per Chart Review Checklist
  • Designated time for periodic exams (coordinated with the doctor’s schedule)
  • Coordinate support from assistants (perio charting, etc.)
  • Results from postoperative calls
  • I will ask _________________ for a referral today
  • Dental Assistant Report
  • Today’s patient information per Chart Review Checklist
  • Coordinate support for administrative team (telephone coverage, etc.)
  • Coordinate support for hygiene team (radiographs when support is needed)
  • Results from postoperative calls
  • I will ask _________________ for a referral today
  • Doctor Report Close huddle on a positive note!The Chart Review ChecklistPrior to the huddle, staff members must review the charts for pertinent information to share with the doctor and other staff members. Record this information on a simple form. This eliminates the need to review the charts during the huddle, which is a big time-saver and keeps the energy level up!Chart Review Checklist Glossary
  • Personal and customer service information: Review notes for information on planned vacations, schools, hobbies, family events, career. Search for ways to make the patient more comfortable, such as headphones, lip balm, or nitrous oxide. Does the patient have any special concerns the staff needs to be aware of?
  • Medical information: Review health history for any medical alerts, allergies, or indication that premedication is necessary. You may want to request a reminder call to see if the patient has a current prescription.
  • Clinical information: Look for difficulties in the past, such as tooth sensitivity or the need for anesthesia. Be prepared to discuss recent treatment that needs to be reinforced, such as the comfort of a recently seated crown.
  • Needs X-rays/photos today: Look at last interval for bitewings, full-mouth series, panorex, and any individual periapicals (wisdom teeth, endodontic evaluation, crowns recently placed, post-soft-tissue management). Also evaluate need for pre- or post-treatment photos.
  • Needs periodic exam today: Which patients on the schedule require a doctor examination today?
  • Previously diagnosed dentistry: Review notes and treatment plan for dentistry that has not been completed. What needs to be reinforced or given a second presentation? Did anything look suspicious at the last visit?
  • Periodic comprehensive exam needed: Target patients who have not had a thorough new patient exam in the last three to five years. Generally these patients are due for a new full series of X-rays and should be positioned to come back to see the doctor.
  • Appointment history: Look for trends in the patient behavior, such as:
  • Last-minute cancellations
  • Violation of the recommended preventive care schedule
  • Consistent late arrival for appointments
  • The Numbers MeetingA practice that has established goals for statistics such as production, collections, accounts receivable, and number of new patients, etc., will find the Numbers Meeting to be the most important meeting of the month.The Numbers Meeting provides the opportunity to compare what was actually accomplished vs. the goal. During this meeting review, analyze, diagnose, celebrate, and most importantly, respond to negative trends before they become bigger problems.Objectives
  • Review the practice statistics from the previous month with the entire staff.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments!
  • Identify areas of concern and brainstorm the causes for the concern.
  • Develop an action plan to correct the areas of concern.
  • Involve the staff in the numbers. The benefits to them are significant. For them, the Numbers Meeting:
  • Provides a scoreboard. If they know the goal, they need to know the result.
  • Can be a cause for celebration!
  • Provides a better understanding of how everyone contributes to achieving the goal.
  • Gives them an opportunity to provide feedback regarding “why” and “how” to solve the problem if the numbers are not being met.
  • Is fundamental to results-driven appointment scheduling; i.e., when they know the production goal, they are better equipped to help meet it.
  • Provides a better understanding (if goals are not being met) of the reasons behind difficult decisions the doctor must make, such as not having dollars available for salary increases, the inability to update the facility, or the need to work more days.
  • Guidelines

  • The Numbers Meeting is held once a month, and is generally the first meeting of the month. Hold this meeting by the 10th. This will ensure that the information is current and you will have more time to fix negative trends.
  • Everyone on the staff attends.
  • The Numbers Meeting is one hour long.
  • An agenda is not required.
  • Numbers to monitorHere is a partial list of numbers to monitor. These statistics represent a particular time period, such as one month, one quarter, or one year.Doctor numbers
  • Total office production (the total production resulting from all producers; e.g., doctors plus hygienists>
  • Total doctor production
  • Total doctor workdays
  • Average doctor per day production
  • Unfilled hours
  • Hygiene numbers
  • Total hygiene department production
  • Total production for individual hygienists
  • Total hygiene workdays
  • Average hygiene per day production
  • Unfilled hours
  • Number of quadrants of scaling and root planing
  • Accounts receivable
  • Total collections
  • Collection percentage
  • Total credit adjustments (courtesy adjustments, bad debt write-offs, etc.)
  • Total amount written off due to participation in reduced fee-for-service programs
  • Total accounts receivable
  • Account aging
  • New patients
  • Number of new patients
  • Referral source information
  • Total dollar amount for treatment presented
  • Total dollar amount of treatment accepted
  • Average case value per new patient
  • Case acceptance percentage
  • Overhead statistics
  • Total overhead (excluding doctor compensation) compared to total production, shown as a percentage.
  • Percentage of individual overhead categories; e.g., total employee expense, dental supplies, compared to total production. Comparison of practice overhead percentages to industry ranges. Is average monthly collection covering average monthly overhead? Are overhead budgets being adhered to?
  • Steps to a Successful Numbers MeetingPrior to the Numbers Meeting -
  • Two days prior to the Numbers Meeting, the facilitator should gather the practice reports and monitor and make one copy for each staff member. (Note: It’s likely that you will have several reports to copy for each staff member - the end-of-month production report, the accounts receivable, and the new-patient report.)
  • Distribute monitors to each staff member.
  • Prior to the Numbers Meeting, ask each staff member to do the following:
  • Review each monitor.
  • Highlight end-of-month totals using a highlighter.
  • Use a pink highlighter on the statistics that meet or exceed the goal. Use a yellow highlighter on the statistics that are below goal or need improvement.
  • During the Numbers Meeting -
  • Ensure each staff member brings prepared monitors to the meeting.
  • Document input on the flipchart. This is the recorder’s responsibility. (Note: The flipchart provides a central focus. For the Numbers Meeting, draw a vertical line down the center of the page. On the left side of the page, write “Pink.” On the right side of the page, write “Yellow.” As participants give feedback, write the information under the appropriate heading.)
  • Call out those things identified as “pink,” which the recorder lists on the flipchart. These are the areas where you were successful. Always start with “pink” - the positive aspects of the previous month!
  • Celebrate your successes.
  • Call out those things identified as “yellow,” which the recorder lists on the flipchart. These are the areas that need improvement.
  • Choose one or two items on the “yellow” list that require improvement.
  • Begin making improvements by following these steps.
  • Brainstorm about what may be causing the problem.
  • Identify the true cause(s) of the issue needing improvement.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Agree on the best solution(s).
  • After the solution(s) has been agreed upon, develop an action plan.
  • When appropriate, work on implementing solutions during staff meetings. List the topic on an agenda. Make sure the topic is on the correct agenda; e.g., the Training Meeting Agenda or the Teamwork Meeting Agenda.
  • The training meetingIn many practices, training time is overlooked for a variety of reasons. Some people (often the doctor) believe they don’t understand a particular job well enough to provide the training. Others feel they are too busy, and others simply don’t place enough value on training. Two one-hour training meetings per month will improve your chances of getting results. Excellent and varied training resources are available. Look to articles, information gathered at a continuing-education seminar, online training, the knowledge of other staff members, or hire a consultant. Take advantage of these resources, schedule training meetings, and look forward to getting results.Objectives
  • Review and discuss how to implement newly-acquired information.
  • Develop skills such as:
  • Verbal skills - negotiating a payment arrangement or asking for referrals.
  • New clinical techniques - using the CEREC machine.
  • Analyzing practice reports for the Numbers Meeting.
  • Develop the practice with regular training sessions.
  • Evaluate staff development and recognize progress.
  • Ensure follow-up on action plans developed at the Numbers or Teamwork Meeting.
  • Exhibit a commitment to continual growth and development.
  • Guidelines
  • Training Meetings are held twice a month, generally the second and fourth meetings of the month.
  • Everyone on the staff attends. (Note: The agenda dictates how the meeting will be structured. The entire staff may be working together on agenda items, or separate departments may meet to focus on their specific training topics.)
  • The Training Meetings are one hour long.
  • Prior to the meeting, follow through with premeeting preparation. For example, if the topic is to discuss a previously attended seminar, review the seminar’s notes.
  • If you are presenting a topic for the meeting, organize your presentation and, if necessary, bring materials to help participants fully grasp the topic.
  • Follow the agenda.
  • If all agenda topics are not covered, list those topics for a future meeting.
  • The teamwork meetingIf your agenda item doesn’t fit into the category of a Training Meeting or a Numbers Meeting, list the item on the agenda for a Teamwork Meeting. This meeting provides the opportunity to discuss a different scope of important practice issues.Objectives
  • Discuss other practice issues not pertaining to training or numbers.
  • Maintain the protocol for having staff meetings with special themes that allow for a more comprehensive focus on those topics.
  • Possible agenda items
  • Reinforce Human Resources policies.
  • Prepare for a new staff member.
  • Update job descriptions.
  • Recognize accomplishments.
  • Celebrate an event.
  • Plan the continuing-education calendar.
  • Plan social events for the practice.
  • Choose new uniforms.
  • Guidelines
  • Teamwork Meetings are held once a month, generally the third meeting of the month.
  • Everyone on the staff attends.
  • Meetings are one hour long.
  • Remember, a commitment on the part of the whole staff not only to attend meetings, but to prepare for and participate in them, makes consistently achieving practice objectives a viable reality. When you begin to view meetings as an investment rather than an expense, the results will be powerful.
    Virginia Moore and Debbie Castagna’s experience and expertise range from work in private practice to founding their total practice resource company, The Practice Source. Virginia and Debbie are popular and highly sought-after speakers, consultants, and co-authors of management resource guides, “The Doctor as CEO” and “The Ultimate Staff.” They can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also visit

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