By Amy Rogers, MD
There is nothing worse than a day at the office that starts out promising but races out of control before you even realize what happened. It frustrates patients, crushes staff morale, and keeps you from providing care the way you want.
Unexpected disruptions often happen as a matter of course in a busy neurology practice. And the worst possible time to deal with these situations is when they are urgent. It disrupts your momentum and the day’s agenda, causing a trickle down effect for staff and patients. In addition, these interruptions tax your decision-making efforts, and you run the risk of experiencing decision fatigue as the day goes on.
As Paul Sufka, MD explains it, physicians make hundreds—if not thousands—of decisions each day. But each of us has a limited availability of energy for decision-making. So the more decisions we make each day, the worse we get at it.
But if you deal with many of these issues through habit and routine, you help your day run smoothly. Even better, you free up your mental energy for the many clinical decisions you make throughout the day.
One simple addition to your day can help achieve this goal. The morning routine should be a vital component of every neurology practice. A basic routine will help anticipate and resolve any issues first thing so patient care isn’t interrupted while you deal with them.
Your morning routine should address several issues to help the day flow smoothly:
Is the office ready for patients?
A staff member should be responsible for making sure every exam room is properly stocked. Another will check on cleanliness and deal with any issue before a patient points it out.
Is your technology functioning properly?
Someone should check the system before you try to enter information into the first EHR. Nothing can slow down an otherwise productive day like malfunctioning technology.
Is the plan for the day workable?
This can best be addressed in an office huddle. This ten minute staff gathering is recommended by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to help streamline care so it is both high quality and efficient. Questions to address during the office huddle include:
- Special patient needs. Do any of the day’s patients need additional time or assistance because of age or disability? Do any of them need a translator?
- Scheduling red flags. Is there a patient on the schedule who frequently misses appointments? That’s a good time to squeeze someone in at the last minute if need be. Do you have two new patients scheduled back to back? How will the office move things along while you are tied up with the new patients?
- Diagnostic needs. Are there any labs or referring physician notes you need before you see a patient?
- Staffing concerns. Are any of your staff absent, arriving late or leaving early? How will their responsibilities be managed in their absence?
These morning huddles offer the added benefit of unifying your office staff as a team. They should walk away from the huddle having connected with their coworkers and feeling confident about the goals for the day.
By implementing the morning routine, you’ve automated many of the day’s decisions. You’ve been able to delegate other decisions to the appropriate staff members. This keeps you from being the first stop for every decision and frees you to focus on the most important decisions—the ones that help you keep your patients healthy.