OPINION - Care huddles are a structured process for teams to communicate about client care, share information, and define what needs to be done on a daily/weekly basis to improve care. Donna Foley from Health Business Solutions shares her insights about the benefits of this type of focused communication, how it can reduce errors, eliminate inappropriate care and create an open culture where safety and quality of care are paramount.
“The aim of the care huddle is to present current information about care needs in a concise way that is easily understood. It is important to ensure that the whole team is involved, including allied health, clinicians, care staff and managers.
Improving care and communication with care huddles
The benefits of running frequent care huddles include:
Improved communication between the multidisciplinary team
Focus on the care requirements of the client/participant
Opportunity for sharing of skills and process improvements among all team members
Integration of information from several sources outside the care team such as family members, other providers, carer or guardian
Encouraging staff to speak up about what is working and what is not working
Improving quality and safety processes in care delivery
Who should attend the care huddle?
In a care environment it is best to alternate the time of the care huddle, so all shifts patterns are involved. Aim to conduct the care huddle, as a stand-up, at least a couple of times a week, if not daily.
It is essential that representatives from all care teams attend the care huddle on a rotating basis, this allows both the coordinators and management teams to hear feedback from care staff directly. Giving care staff a channel where they are heard is invaluable in building safety culture.
Allied health practitioners and other members of the multidisciplinary team can attend the care huddle on a rotating basis. Whilst this may be easy to achieve in a residential facility, in home care delivery it may require having care huddles a few times a week to reach all teams.
Try to ensure that people who work evenings and nights are included in the care huddle for example by scheduling a huddle during weekend shifts.
How to structure a care huddle
Let the team know the times of care huddles, in advance, post the monthly schedule on the care management software and in the office. Have the team stand around a whiteboard or use a virtual whiteboard for teams who do not share an office, or for people who work remotely.
Information relating to each client is discussed by the team with the aim of keeping the review short where possible and focusing on clients who have some complication in their condition and those clients where changes to care are required.
The care huddle can be divided into issues relating to complications in clinical condition changes in customer /family circumstances, requirements for specialist allied health input and other changes that your organisation as the care provider will need to make in order to accommodate the client requirements.
Keep it short and simple. Care huddles are designed to be an exchange of information. It is vital that staff are free to say what is working and what is not working. Encourage people to call out what has gone wrong and encourage open participation in the process.
Be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality when sharing information. It is advisable to tell clients/participants that you have care huddles and you may want to get consent from clients as well, this sharing of information is usually included in the consent clients/participants sign when they first receive supports.
There are no specific questions to ask during a care huddle. The idea is to encourage the team to open up and tell you what they think, so in many ways it is better to ask open ended questions such as ‘how is Mrs Smith doing?’. This allows people to speak up and offer their view, rather than feeling that they have to answer a question.
If the care team does not join in the discussion on care needs, then you could ask questions such as:
Is there anything unusual going on with Mrs Smith’s
What care do you think you need to do today with Mrs Smith?
Have you asked Mrs Smith what activities she would like to attend?
These general questions may help staff open up and share information, it is important to let staff speak freely.
Key messages about care huddles
Keep it short no more than 10 – 12 minutes to discuss a group of clients
Use visual information - write actions to be taken on a white board
Focus on safety and quality of care
It’s about problem solving, all staff can contribute to the discussion on better care
Rotate the time to involve staff on all shift patterns
Can be facilitated by nurses or allied health staff and experienced care staff
Having managers participate in care huddles, opens channels of communication and builds trust.”
Donna Foley is a registered nurse and health service manager who has worked in healthcare for more than 20 years. With expertise in quality and safety management systems, Donna has been an auditor/assessor for the NDIS and health services regulator giving her in-depth understanding of the accreditation process. Donna and the team at Health Business Solutions can assist you with writing procedures, improving care processes. HBS works with organisations, large and small, to improve care processes and supporting cultural change through active engagement and coaching for both care staff and the management team.