How to make your practice run smoothly with effective team meetings

Staff Writer
AMA Wire
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Physicians and their teams can save time by working together to improve their work flows. Learn easy ways to implement regularly scheduled team meetings to increase communication within your care team and work like a well-oiled machine.

Physicians and their practice teams may recognize that they aren’t working efficiently and that there may be a better way to organize their work, but they need the time and focus to fix processes.

Fortunately, regularly scheduled meetings can help. They provide a forum to solve problems and develop stronger bonds between team members, both of which ultimately result in better patient care. A free online module in the AMA’s STEPS Forward collection provides step‑by‑step solutions to implement and conduct successful team meetings in your practice.

1. Identify the team.
The people in the team meeting will vary based on the size of your practice or your specialty. You may include the physicians, medical assistants, nurses and the clinic manager, or you may include just one physician, two nurses and a receptionist. If you’re in a small practice, you may invite the lab technician. Read details in the module about the most effective size of the team.

2. Meet regularly and on the clock.
Pick a set time to meet weekly or every other week. The meeting should occur “on the clock,” and away from the clinical area to minimize interruptions.

3. Agree on ground rules.
Establishing rules from the beginning will foster a supportive, respectful environment. Creating rules as a team can encourage buy-in and strengthen teamwork. Get a sample list of ground rules in the module, and read how to handle it when someone, such as a senior leader, breaks the rules.

4. Set a consistent agenda.
Many teams use a template to set a consistent agenda for each meeting, with standing items such as “new business” or “check-in.” Allow team members to submit agenda items. The module offers a sample agenda you can adapt.

5. Rotate meeting roles.
Rotate roles of meeting chair, timekeeper and recorder for each meeting. This approach can help build team culture and confidence among staff. Get an explanation of each role in the module, and learn how to get staff buy-in if people are initially reluctant to participate.

6. Solve problems as a group.
Team meetings are a time for everyone to be actively engaged in problem-solving and to step back and analyze processes while not in the midst of a busy workday. The module includes possible issues to discuss at meetings.

7. Record action steps, owners and due dates.
Record minutes from each meeting on a standard form, and post in an accessible place so everyone can reference it in the future. Before ending each meeting, identify action items, owners of the item and due dates, then check back at the next meeting. Get a minutes template in the module.

8. Practice good meeting skills.
Staying on task, avoiding side conversations and other good meeting habits make the time more productive. Read strategies for encouraging good meeting skills in the module.

9. Have some fun.
It’s okay to have fun at team meetings. A bit of fun, such as a game, can translate into better team culture and more productive meetings.

10. Celebrate successes.
Keep a running list of things the team has accomplished. Share stories about meaningful patient interactions. These things also can improve your team culture.

Many more details on this process can be found in the module, including stories from real-life physicians. The module also includes information about how to get support for implementation, and it offers continuing medical education credit. More than 25 modules are expected to be available in the AMA’s STEPS Forward collection by the end of the year.

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