Daily leadership huddles drive up event reporting, cut errors

Morning huddles can significantly improve hospital culture and help hospital leaders anticipate preventable errors, according to a Harvard Business Review blog post.

Last spring, the Illinois-based Advocate Health Care abolished meetings between 7 and 9 a.m., replacing them with safety huddles, according to Rishi Sikka, M.D., Kate Kovich, M.S. and Lee Sacks, M.D., all senior leaders at the integrated health system.

During the huddles, which last about 15 minutes, leaders discuss the state of affairs in the hospital and problems such as safety events, patient falls, medication errors and care delays. Since the facility implemented the huddles, safety event reporting increased 40 percent within the system's 12 acute care facilities, according to the post, and the number of safety events decreased. As a result, the organization now conducts huddles seven days a week.

Either the facility president or a designee direct the huddles, which include managers and senior-level executives, according to the post. During a huddle, each leader reports on major safety or quality issues that have occurred in the past 24 hours and those likely to occur within the next 24 hours, as well as instances in which staff successfully anticipated and prevented such events. The huddles are not problem-solving sessions, the authors write; rather, the problem-solving takes place among leaders on their own time after the huddle disperses.

Implementing the huddles was not without its challenges, according to the authors. They had to encourage non-clinical sectors of the facilities, such as supply chain managers, to participate in the reporting process and it wasn't easy to predict future problems with safety or quality.

"To help huddles anticipate future issues, we ask leaders to identify at least one patient who they think could deteriorate in the next 24 hours, or whose status is tenuous," they write. "This can lead to discussions that identify potential future issues, and it helps make this sort of forward-looking thinking more routine."

Similarly, hospital leaders can improve safety and quality outcomes by engaging frontline workers, according to John Toussaint, M.D., chief executive officer of ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value. And a 42-bed Indiana facility reduced readmissions for hip and knee replacements to only .74 percent after implementing weekly team meetings, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the blog post