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Tips for a Successful Physician Meeting

Tips for a Successful Physician Meeting

I try not to revisit topics in this blog, but since I've been writing for a number of years on work-life balance, some topics are bound to come up time after time. After a recent medical directors' meeting, I was trying to get some ideas about how to run a productive physician meeting and searched the internet. Google produced a hit for an article titled "Productive Physician Meetings." Perfect, I thought. I clicked on the link only to be taken to a blog I wrote two years ago.

I joked to myself that the author probably had no idea what she was talking about. As I skimmed the article, I glanced at the comments on the bottom. One comment accused me of wasting the reader's time because I did not actually speak about productive meetings, just ranted about before-work and after-work meetings. It is a fair criticism.

In the past two years, I've made an ardent study of meeting structure, philosophy, and purpose. Our organization has similarly moved to improve the meeting culture that we, like many organizations, have fallen victim to. As I've become a little more experienced and more knowledgeable, I wanted to update my previous blog with some tips that, hopefully, are helpful to my readers. I can hardly claim credit for these rules – they are the shared wisdom of many authors, experts, and colleagues. Without further ado,These are my accumulated rules for productive physician meetings:

1. Meetings must have a clear purpose, a desired outcome, and a detailed agenda. Meetings can be bad enough, but attending a meeting which clearly has not been well thought-out and is disorganized is more painful than a root canal, because at least you get anesthesia for a root canal. In our organization, we have permission to decline any meeting in which an agenda is not available.

2. Beware of Parkinson's law which states that meetings will expand to fill the time allotted to them. Meetings last the length of time they are given on the schedule. Not because of exceptionally careful planning but because meetings will expand to fill up every available minute, even if there is no reason to continue.

3. Your role at the meeting should be clear. If you do not need to prepare for the meeting, present at the meeting, render a decision, or do work that comes out of the meeting, you probably don't need to attend. Often physicians have a very specific role to play in an organization and they do not always need to attend every meeting. I've been successful in offering to provide information in advance of the meeting instead of attending or in attending only for the portion of the meeting relevant to me.

4. Do not use meeting time for information dissemination if it can be accomplished any other way. Meeting minutes are precious – do not waste them with information that can be disseminated via email, letter, or phone call. Meetings are for items that require face-to-face communication– discussion, decision, approval, etc.

5. And finally, do not be afraid to call a meeting. Email is no substitute for conversation and face-to-face discussion. When issues are complex or are associated with strong opinions, meetings are often the quickest and most effective way to reach consensus and understanding.

I hope that the hapless reader from two years ago is willing to give me a second chance and finds this information helpful. It is also a good reminder for myself on planning my next meeting.

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