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The Daily Safety Huddle

Woman sits at desk smiling at computer screen, screen shows ongoing Zoom meeting.

Healthcare is an environment of continuous improvement. There is no end point or final achievement in any health system that completes this work in key areas such as safety, efficiency and quality. Process improvement is part of the daily routine, woven into the organization’s infrastructure as much as any service line or clinical task. The importance of process, continuous improvement and the ability to quickly adapt was especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic and it has not diminished since

Skagit Regional Health runs a Daily Safety Huddle providing a central touchpoint for both clinical and non-clinical staff across the entire organization. A diverse cross-section of employees meets every morning for 15 minutes to take a quick pulse of your healthcare system. This is a daily opportunity to check in and make sure teams are focused on all the right things to ensure safe patient care.

A typical Daily Safety Huddle includes representatives from each clinical care department, Case Management, the Executive Leadership Team, Engineering, Technology Services, Laboratory, Pharmacy, Employee Health and more. The meetings are brief, a quick opportunity to bring forward any issues that could delay patient care, impact safety or affect workflow. Huddles can include updates on patient census or a check in on current staffing levels in various departments. The group regularly reports on safety concerns or communication gaps, addresses them in the moment and identifies what can be done to prevent them in the future. 

The huddles provide an opportunity to bring forward any reoccurring challenges or process improvement needs. Since most departments are represented in the Daily Safety Huddle, employees can quickly identify the right partner(s) to work toward a solution. These sparks of cross-department collaboration often result in the quick resolution of a challenge that may have taken many steps to resolve in the past. The challenges are documented during the huddle and teams report back the next day, as needed.  

“The Daily Safety Huddle is one of the most visible actions to demonstrate our commitment to safety and to zero preventable harm to our patients and team members," said  Joshua Griggs, MD and Chief Quality Officer. “It is especially important that all attendees have the ability and, even obligation, to speak up if they have a concern affecting the safety of patient care.” 

The Daily Safety Huddle continues to deliver a number of positive outcomes. A standardized reporting template is used to track the notes from each huddle and these quick meetings result in the formation of several committees to address challenges brought up in that setting. Additionally, participation from key staff members from all areas ensures the organization can efficiently remove barriers to great care. It’s a true team approach.

“The beauty of this process really is the brevity of the meeting,” said Michelle Sand, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer for Cascade Valley Hospital. “Many of these barriers can be addressed simply by alerting a few people in the room. This format inspires quick team formation to address larger challenges that need attention. We’ve already seen great outcomes from these 15-minute windows of focused time.”