This best practice guide is current as of November 30, 2017.  Content may be added in response to member contributions and requests. Click the + icon to view content under each header.  Click the Print / pdf button at bottom left to print the content on this page.

How can we optimize team communication for the good of our patients, our team, and our center?  Effective team communication is essential as health centers strive to achieve the “Quadruple Aim”better care for individuals, better health for populations, lower costs and improved work life of those who deliver care. This critical question requires focused team communication strategies.  On this page we provide best practice ideas from the field and from CHC Leadership Institute members.

We present below nine best practice strategies for Enhancing Team Communication submitted by participants in the CHC Leadership Learning Program as of June 20, 2017.  We invite you to scan the list and choose one strategy (more if you like!) for implementation at your health center.
We also welcome more ideas for engaging patients at any time.  Click here to share.
  • Brag Wall.  We use a “brag wall” for positive feedback to employees. Quarterly the HR dept gives a small gift to the employee that was “bragged on” the most. This is posted on our internal home page/intranet.
  • Email.  Email seems to be the best way to reach everyone here at RAHC. Messages and such on eCW are not as effective.
  • Instant Messaging.  Recently the instant messaging system has been activated within our EHR. This has been really helpful in relaying important information in a timely manner to other employees.
  • Internal Suggestion Box. We instituted an internal suggestion form and process where any staff person or team could recommend ideas or changes, make suggestions, etc. The form is taken to the management team and is discussed. The corresponding response and subsequent action(s) is then communicated directly back to that staff person or team.  If a new idea or process needs to be communicated to the entire staff, it is down through an internal e-mail and usually followed up with a verbal discussion at the next all staff meeting.
  • Rounding with a Purpose.  Our management team has just instituted “rounding with a purpose” in the last couple of weeks. Several of us toured all the Center work stations and asked (as a starting question) about ideas for facility improvements that would help with work flow. Before we actually did the tour, we gave staff the heads up that we were coming so they could be prepared.  We got a LOT of good ideas, which we will report out in our bi-weekly newsletter, along with what we have been able to accomplish.  This communication effort seemed to have been appreciated, and we are looking forward to the next rounding.  We have decided to do this twice a month.
  • Software.  See Software Used as Part of a Communication Strategy for detailed list of software ideas.
    • BaseCamp.  We are testing “Basecamp” to see if we would like to use this tool.
    • Cisco Jabber.
      • We use Jabber messenger for reaching someone quickly and efficiently
      • We use “Jabber” for our internal messaging system. This makes us available to IM anyone in the organization regardless if we’re on the phone or in a meeting.
    • Intranet/internal home page.  We have access to a link that allows us to search active employees and make a short positive comment to brag on their good performances or extra help they have provided.
    • LAN Messenger.
      • Using LAN messenger for instant communication when needed (entire staff).
      • We use LAN messenger – a type of instant messenger that pops up on the screen.  We use it for direct one to one communication, but we also use it for mass communication.  If it is something important than we also email and print the info and put in employee mailboxes.
    • Microsoft Share Point.
      • We are implementing the use of SharePoint (part of the Microsoft Office 365 package) to provide staff across departments and across sites to access various documents and information that they might need and/or want. The documents posted on our SharePoint site will include (but is not limited to) our personnel manual, leave request forms, our staff newsletter, information shared at staff meetings, and new patient forms.
      • We have SharePoint for our internal “Facebook”. When you open internet explorer or Chrome this is your home page. We have a place for everything. “A message from the CEO, stuff to know, stuff to do, inspirational quotes, Brag on your co-workers, stuff you may need, out of office calendar, and find a policy or procedure.” Many of these items have sub items listed below that you click a link on to go somewhere else.
    • Microsoft Yammer.  At our organization we previously implemented an internal communication program, Compliatrics in January, but since that time we have started using Yammer, a program within Office 365. This provides us an opportunity to keep everyone abreast of daily events and upcoming events.  We are also able to provide Kudos to staff members that may work at other locations.
    • PATHS uses output messaging to communicate internally.
  • Meetings.
    • Having regular meetings more often
    • Copies of the minutes from meetings are sent out to all members of the meeting.
    • Ensuring all staff get SOP updates
    • “Inter-service” meetings allow the different service lines to communicate about changes in one service line that may affect another (ex.- dental and medical)
  • Teleconferences.  We use monthly company-wide teleconferences to improve  team communication.
  • Text Messaging.  I supervise 14 dental assistants at 5 different sites. I send each team a text message in the morning of any staff changes for the day and also where I will be.  Here is an example:  “Lori , Paloma —TEAM MES good morning, I will be at corporate this morning and ACHC this afternoon.  Ty the BA is out on FSLeave .  Shelly will be coming to fill in.”
  • Staffing.  Our organization will be adding a new position, Front Office Coordinator, to make sure that work flow, communication and training among sites are seamless and improve the patient experience. Front office staff will be incentivized with a monthly bonus if they meet defined criteria that will improve scheduling, and insure the needs of all the patients are met. See Staffing toggle for more best practice ideas for communication.

In the same 2017 survey we also asked participants to share software used as part of Communication Strategy.  Here are thirteen ideas provided by survey respondents.

  • Allscripts EHR message and instant message system
  • BaseCamp
  • Cisco Jabber
  • Cisco SPARK–Instant Messenger
  • GoToMeeting
  • Intranet/internal home page
  • LAN messenger
  • LAN messenger, email, mail boxes
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Office 365: OneDrive
  • Microsoft Office 365: SharePoint
  • Microsoft Office 365: Yammer
  • Our ADP Intranet

In the same 2017 survey we also asked participants to share terminology used by centers for the ‘Front Office Staff” position title.

  • Business Assistants
  • Check in, check out
  • Clinical Assistants
  • Front office but I think we will be renaming them soon
  • Front office staff
  • Patient Access Team
  • Patient Assistance Specialist (front office) Patient Scheduling Specialist (call center staff)
  • Patient Assistant Specialist
  • Patient Assistant Specialist
  • Patient Service Representative
  • Patient Service Representatives
  • Patient Service Representatives – PSR
  • Patient Services Representative
  • Patient Services Representative is used for both front office staff and for schedulers
  • Registration staff/front desk staff….love the patient access representatives or patient ambassadors. It makes for a totally different mindset of roles and responsibilities.

The AMA STEPS Forward project provides best practice modules on multiple topics related to team communication,  including the following.

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