Medical Meetings: Go from Tyrant to Trendsetter

July 20, 2015

From 7 a.m. grand rounds to in-person meetings that should be conference calls, we're going beyond just saying "no." We are declaring our independence.

 We are suckers for social media and, although we have a few regrets, we usually can't resist an opportunity to post something funny to our community. Earlier this month, on the Fourth of July, we posted:

"This is from the list of grievances against the King of England in the Declaration of Independence: 'He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.' Reminds me of many meetings I've been expected to show up at. Happy 4th everyone!"

The post received a decent number of "likes," gave us a laugh, and that, we thought, was that.

After we returned to work from the long holiday weekend, we read in The New Yorker a great piece about the impact of sleep deprivation on health. In pediatrics, this is a current hot topic. At our practice we are actively advocating for later start times at school for adolescents. The data demonstrates that early school start times have a negative impact on the health of students including increased obesity and fatal automobile accidents. In kids as well as adults, lack of sleep contributes to depression and interferes with thinking. We providers know that the medical literature on sleep supports all of this, so why do so many of our colleges insist on the early morning medical meeting?

We acknowledge that the excepted reasoning for early-morning scheduling is to allow doctors to attend meetings and then get back to clinical care without reducing patient volume. Doctors sit through the meetings half asleep in the carbohydrate infused phase brought on by the donut or pastry, waiting for their morning beverage's caffeine to kick in. We are in fact "fatigued into compliance" and then sent on our merry way to see as many patients in as short appointments as possible to increase revenue.

It is easy to relate to that 239-year-old line from the Declaration of Independence. How many meetings we have been called to at "places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant"? We've been uncomfortable at many conferences where the air conditioning was too cold, the seats crammed together, and the discussions way off topic. Fatigue is exactly what we feel at 7 a.m. meetings where instead of having a chance to speak, we are lectured as to what we should believe and care about. Compliance is exactly what is expected by officials who demand our time and attention.

It's not enough for us to just say "no" to those who make demands on our professional time. It is time we push back on those who manipulate via meetings to both meet an agenda while conning us into believing we were equal participations. We need to insist on smarter scheduling (just as we are advocating for later start times to school for adolescents), use of technology (we do not all have to be in the same place at the same time to have a productive meeting), and recognizing priorities (the non-clinical work we all do is just as important to the health of our practices as is the clinical work).

One major advantage we have in 2015 over 1776 is the ability to make distance a non-issue. For leaders who utilize conference calls and webinars, we thank you. Unfortunately, there are some for whom "in-person" is the only option offered. Tyrants.

Have you ever scheduled a meeting in a place unusual, uncomfortable, and distant maybe hoping that the other attendees would be fatigued into compliance with your measures? You hold the power to make a change. Join us in declaring yourself independent from unusual, uncomfortable, and distant meetings.