How to run an effective practice meeting
Due to the recent pandemic, new virtual ways of working and heightened stress levels means practice managers are increasingly time-poor. Therefore, keeping meetings as efficient and streamlined as possible is critical to maintaining productivity and optimising outcomes.
Regular, efficient practice meetings set the scene for a positive, safe and collaborative practice, ensuring everyone is on the same page in terms of tasks and responsibilities. They also encourage open and honest communication and collaboration and therefore have a significant impact on practice culture in the long-run.
A practice manager who does not communicate with their team regularly runs the risk of stifling new ideas and positive growth.
In this article, we explore some key tips to run an effective and efficient practice meeting. Leading Practice Management Consultant and Managing Director of Train IT Medical, Katrina Otto, recommends practice meetings occur regularly, ideally one every week, with daily ‘huddles’ between particular teams to ensure everyone is on track.
“A common mistake in many practices is they will only have a clinical meeting, and not a whole of practice meeting. In this way, positive change becomes stalled or difficult, because people may misunderstand the goal, the process, or not feel invested,” Katrina says. “A regular whole of practice meeting is vital to get everyone on board with any process changes or practice improvements, and then clinical teams should also have their daily ‘huddles’.”
Have a clear agenda
Be sure to share a clear agenda before the meeting, and allow attendees to add to it if there’s an issue they would like to discuss. By distributing the key points for discussion prior, everyone knows what to expect and can be prepared accordingly. In these challenging times, keep the documentation simple. Even a dot point agenda on a whiteboard or a one-page meeting template will help set the tone that meetings are important but not onerous. Interestingly, in the current pandemic, the practices Katrina has seen thriving are those having daily connecting meetings offering continual team communication and support.
Tayla Lawrence, the Practice Manager of Caringbah Family Practice, said for doctor meetings, she finds handling them a certain way works best. “Particularly for doctors meetings, if there is a list of problem items on the agenda I will start by telling them what the problem is, why it was raised, my suggestion for a solution and then open up to the group. This approach tends to make the meeting go much faster.”
Allow adequate time
Be sure you allow for time to cover off each agenda item, plus a little extra time for discussion. However, it is also important you don’t allow the meeting to go over the allocated time. Stick to key points and move the meeting along where necessary.
Make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard
Everyone should be given a chance to have a say, no matter what position they hold in the practice. Don’t assume everyone will speak up. Some may feel intimidated, so be sure to provide opportunities for all staff to be heard if they have something to add.
Some people will raise topics that are unable to be resolved in a meeting, so introduce the ‘parking lot’ idea where you write unresolved topics or questions that you will return to at a later stage. Ensure these are always followed up.
“I start the meeting by going around the table and getting everyone to state one thing they cannot do but would like to. We get answers from sewing to reverse parking. This starts the meeting with a casual, light tone and highlights the fact we all have more to learn,” Tayla adds.
Highlight some positives
Practice meetings can quickly become very negative if not properly managed, especially given there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in the current medical practice environment. To keep practices focused on the important aspects of safety and care, while also planning for a positive future, make an effort to talk about the positives as well. A good way to do this is to go around the table and ask everyone to relay a positive story from the practice in the previous week, and ensure everyone knows this will happen beforehand.
“It’s actually not hard for people to come up with good news stories in a practice, a family for whom your care has made a significant difference in their lives, patients who expressed gratitude with flowers or who told the front desk staff how wonderful the doctor or nurse was. Share these widely and regularly.” Katrina adds. “In a meeting, if we start and end with a negative focus, then meetings will swiftly become something to be avoided.”
Work to people’s skills and strengths
Everyone in the practice has particular expertise they bring to the table. In addition to meetings, encourage inservices where staff can share their specific expertise during the year. Use a variety of mechanisms to continually encourage suggestions and new ideas. This way, innovation is easier and everyone feels valued and invested in the change process.
- Make sure there’s a clear agenda.
- Keep it positive
- Make sure people understand what their responsibilities are following the meeting by using clear and concise language
- Consider following up the meeting with an email to ensure everyone is on the same page
- Allow everyone to have their say
- Encourage smaller teams to have short daily huddles also
- Give everyone a turn at hosting the meeting throughout the year
- Take good notes and ensure everyone is across calendar scheduling. This is where good practice management software can come into its own
- Make the agenda too long to manage. Keep it to the aspects of management that need to be addressed that week
- Let the meeting degenerate into a complaints session
- Try to tackle too much in one meeting
- Shut down open discussion or ideas
- Exclude people