Effective Practice Meetings Promote Input, Productivity

June 23, 2016

Don't just hold a meeting with your staff members for the sake of holding a meeting. Here are tips to make sure the meetings are productive.

Does your practice have numerous quarterly, monthly, and even weekly meetings?  How effective are these meetings? Is your staff meeting for the sake of meeting, or is work actually being accomplished?

Here are some tips for making sure your meetings are productive:

Form Teams

Create practice teams around areas important to the practice.  Some examples of possible teams include EHR, front desk, staff scheduling, triage, patient satisfaction, and patient population trends.  Set the day and time each practice team meets.  Install a suggestion board - a large white board - in the meeting area with a list of meetings and the days and times the recurring team meetings occur.  Encourage staff members to join the practice team that interests them, but ensure everyone is on a team.  Challenge staff members to think about both the issues that come up each day that could be improved, not just in the areas their team manages, but in all aspects of the practice.

Encourage Staff to Set the Agenda Topics

The best meetings cover topics that the attendees are invested in themselves, or at least recognize how important the topics are to the success of the practice and, by extension, their careers.  When team members are engaged in work flow improvement or policy development, they are more likely to follow the process or policy and have greater job satisfaction. Encourage staff to set meeting agenda topics by writing issues on the suggestion board under the appropriate team. Encourage staff members to include their initials, so during meetings that individual can:

- Explain the details and subtleties of the issue.

- Propose solutions.

- Receive praise from management for bringing up the topic and potential solutions.

Writing on the suggestion board should be strongly encouraged and lauded as it empowers staff to propose a solution and will likely reduce negativity and complaining. Prioritize topics to keep meeting duration manageable; however, keep staff engaged by ensuring lower priority topics are acknowledged and addressed during subsequent meetings. 

Facilitate and Control the Meeting

Each meeting should have a designated leader or facilitator who distributes the agenda to participants prior to the meeting. Larger teams may want to consider rotating meeting facilitation among staff members or management to ensure across-the-board responsibility and buy-in.

The facilitator should prepare the agenda before the start of the meeting by gathering the topics from the suggestion board. A typical agenda may include the following topics:

• Review follow up from previous meeting.

• New items for discussion (topics from suggestion board).

• Discussion topic goal: what objective should be met by the end of the meeting (e.g., a problem defined, a completed plan, or a decision made, etc.).

• Next steps/follow up for next meeting.

• Wrap up – next meeting time/date, preliminary agenda.

The facilitator with the agenda in hand controls the discussion, and should ensure that that every attendee gets a chance to provide input.  Avoid “meeting dominators” by asking questions of quiet team members who you think may have a point that should be heard.

Meetings must start and end on time to demonstrate efficiency and the importance of time mangement.

Follow Up

Practice improvements are lost from meetings if the meeting adjourns without additional follow up. The facilitator must distribute meeting minutes containing notes, major discussion points, and decisions.  Include post-meeting follow up items in the minutes, including who is responsible and the target completion date. Team members are more likely to complete follow-up tasks on time when they are expected to provide an update at a future team meeting. 

Assess and Eliminate Redundancy

As the practice grows and changes, the standing meeting schedule should be reviewed periodically and adjusted to eliminate redundancy and reduce drain on employee and management time/effort.  Develop a list of meetings including the purpose, attendees, duration, and schedule of each meeting. Review the following:

• Are meeting topics serving the intended purpose and benefiting employees, the practice, the patients, and their families?

• Do the topics overlap with other scheduled meetings?  Are there opportunities for meeting consolidation?

• Are the appropriate people attending?

• Does the meeting frequency and duration need to be adjusted?

• Are certain meetings often canceled?  These meetings may need to be consolidated with those of another team or even eliminated.

With some simple preparation, organization, and structure, your practice meetings will be engaging and productive events that your staff won’t want to miss.