Daily tiered huddles open lines of communication from caregivers to executive management

Doctors talking
Holding brief, tiered huddles every day allows Intermountain Health to identify and address issues more quickly and efficiently. (Getty/wmiami)

Effective leadership in healthcare often means getting knowledge out of caregivers’ heads so organizations can act on it. Intermountain Healthcare found a way to do that daily, in 15-minute increments.

Open lines of communication between caregivers on the front lines and the hospital leaders who aim to align an organization’s stakeholders can trigger more nimble, sure-footed decision-making and promote a culture of respect and value, writes Marc Harrison, M.D., president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, in a blog post for NEJM Catalyst.

When his organization sought to streamline its communications, leaders quickly discovered the importance of escalating issues to the right level in the organization to get them addressed efficiently.

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The answer came in the form of daily huddles at each tier of leadership within the organization, starting with caregivers and ending with the executive leadership team. The huddles last 15 minutes each, and they end by midmorning, so issues and information that need immediate attention have a chance to bubble up all the way to the executive level within 24 hours of being identified.

Harrison said the process allows organizations to spot trends more quickly, allowing leaders to respond more rapidly to systemwide events that affect patients or caregivers. For example, a hospital could respond efficiently to safety concerns, or it could mitigate access issues by coordinating with other facilities in the network that have more capacity to take on new patients.

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Furthermore, it allows Intermountain to identify and address issues before it becomes necessary for management to intervene, allowing executives to focus on information sharing that develops more consistent best practices across the system. Less than a year after implementing the tiered huddle system, Harrison reports, Intermountain has seen measurable gains in response times, collaboration and the prevention of new problems.

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