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Huddle of One

There’s nothing new under the sun, or in medicine. I’m not talking about monoclonal antibody targeted chemotherapy; I’m talking about taking care of patients, and specifically about running a medical practice. Not even the incursion advent of all our fancy new electronics has (or should have) a fundamental effect on how we take care of our patients.  The latest thing to come down the pike is the so-called Patient Centered Medical Home, a collection of policies, procedures, and practice re-structuring (webinars, templates, guidelines, etc. all available at low, low prices, of course) that essentially makes large group practices function like a solo doc from the patient’s point of view.

Because the buzzword of this new model is “teamwork”, we’re all supposed to begin the day with a brilliant new concept called the “huddle“:

The team huddle is promoted by many clinicians and practice coaches as an innovative approach to support medical home transformation through visit pre-planning, team building and communication, and workflow redesign.

Radical!

One problem: how do I do that all by myself? I mean, here’s what I generally do every day:

  • Make sure to arrive at least 30-60 minutes before the first scheduled patient
  • Look over the schedule to get a sense of the day, who’s coming, who may need extra time, any new patients
  • Double-checking that rooms are re-stocked with key supplies (ie, three paps on the schedule; wasn’t the speculum drawer low the other day? Couple of well baby visits; enough needles for all their shots? Better top up the bin from the supply closet.)
  • Looking over the charts (now electronically; previously the paper ones — adding pages, seeing whose insurance info needs updating, etc.)
  • Go over all the above with staff whenever they arrive (usually after me)

I’ve always just called it “getting ready for the day,” an organizational strategy for business management that’s called “being prepared” in most other occupations. But now it has a new name: the Huddle. Complete with instructional videos, for chrissakes.

As far as “patient-centered-ness” goes, I’ve used a somewhat different set of concepts from Day One called “Customer Service”. Having people instead of machines answering the phone, same-day appointments, personally communicating test results; all Disney-level customer service, now re-named things like “Open Access”, have been integral to my practice from the git-go.

Why is it happening? One of the oldest reasons in the world, of course: money to be made. I’m sure there are too many doctors and medical practices out there who, sadly, need this kind of help. Sadder still, they have to be force-fed it under the guise of running a “more efficient” practice.

Whatever happened to good old common sense? Next thing you know they’ll be all over us making sure we wash our hands. (Joke intended.) Seriously, though. This whole thing about co-opting perfectly sensible things from other industries for medicine — checklists, for example — and carrying on as if having re-invented the wheel is getting old.

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