Is Your Organization Ready for Electronic Meetings?

Is Your Organization Ready for Electronic Meetings?

Nov 28, 2018
  • Author:
    Vicki Searcy
    Former VP, Consulting
    Vicki has managed several credentialing and privileging practices, led a national healthcare accreditation and compliance consulting practice, was a surveyor for the NCQA, and a former president of NAMSS.

Electronic meetings! When setting up electronic meetings, it is important to make sure that the way that electronic meetings are conducted are managed and documented in a way that meets accreditation/licensing requirements as well as meeting the needs of busy providers who often do not have time to travel to meet in person. And – most importantly – it is crucial to determine whether conducting the important business assigned to the committee can be successfully handled electronically or is more effectively handled by in-person attendance.

It is essential to be able to demonstrate that an electronic process is just as diligent (or more diligent) than a meeting at which participants are physically present.

Benefits of Electronic Meetings

Some of the benefits of electronic meetings include:

  • Time Savings – participants do not have to travel to a specific location for a meeting.
  • Committee Member Satisfaction – committee members are typically pleased to be able to perform their assigned committee work at a time most convenient for them. They don’t have a travel to a meeting location and the saving of time (and aggravations related to travel) is a huge satisfier.
  • Focus - electronic meetings are conducive to sticking to a specific agenda and therefore are often shorter than in-person meetings where discussion can get “off topic.” They typically start on time and end on time. Agenda items are normally not rehashed for latecomers.

Travel to meetings can be a major issue, not only for committee members, but for administrative attendees and those who support meetings. If you work in an urban area, getting to/from a meeting at another location can involve traffic, weather issues and parking problems and may result in poor attendance, late-comers, and generally frazzled participants.

Determining Whether an Electronic Meeting or an In-Person Meeting is Most Effective

The following are some things to consider when making a determination regarding holding an electronic vs. in-person meeting.

A key consideration is the culture of the organization and/or committee. There must be a good deal of trust in the functioning of a committee and the process for conducting the meeting in order to transition to an electronic meeting. There must also be trust in the individual(s) who staff the meeting, as the documentation prior to the meeting (the agenda), the supporting materials being made available to facilitate thorough review and the documentation of the results of the meeting (the minutes) are the responsibility of the meeting coordinator. Additionally, the organization must have the technology that enables distribution of meeting materials and ideally – facilitates “discussion” prior to the meeting when appropriate.

An electronic meeting could be considered when there are meetings where business is fairly routine and non-controversial. The committee is asked to make decisions, but information about the decision is readily available for review prior to the meeting. Meetings where it would be important to have face-to-face discussion about controversial or critical issues on which there may be diverse (and sometimes emotional) opinions and debate.

Electronic Meeting Examples In-Person Meeting Examples

A Credentials Committee meeting that considers Category 1 (no issue) requests.

A Credentials Committee meeting held to consider Category 2 (issue/problem) requests might be better handled at an in-person meeting.

A Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee meeting where additions to the formulary are being considered might be a good candidate for an electronic meeting.

A Medical Executive Committee meeting often has a mixture of routine business and critical discussion issues and is often better conducted in-person.

A Cancer Committee or CME Committee meeting where routine reports are received and processed might be contenders for electronic meetings.

An Ethics Committee meeting where serious ethical issues are being considered may not make for a productive electronic meeting.

Types of Electronic Meetings

There are two basic types of electronic meetings. The appropriate type can be selected depending upon the business of the meeting and the confidence of the committee members of the committee process.

  • A meeting at which all participants are online together and able to communicate verbally. These meetings typically involve dialing in and being able to view an agenda and other meeting materials. These types of meetings may include the ability to view participants via videoconferencing.
  • A “meeting” that occurs over a defined period of time (usually a couple of days) during which time, meeting participants are asked to review materials and vote on specific issues. Meeting participants must understand the “rules of the road” for the meeting and adhere to timeframes. For example, a Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee might be presented with an agenda of formulary requests and back-up documentation regarding the requests. Let’s say that the agenda is sent out on Tuesday at 2 pm and by Thursday at 2 pm, the committee members must review the materials and electronically approve or disapprove the requests. The meeting coordinator has documentation of what members participated and “voted” and can then document the committee decisions. This type of meeting is used by some organizations for credentials decisions that are routine – the files have been reviewed and determined to be “no issue” files where it is not perceived that discussion is warranted. The committee members have access to the full electronic file and review prior to casting a vote. If the technology permits, an electronic “discussion board” facilitates discussion of any issues that are identified (and any files where issues are identified are removed from consideration at the electronic meeting).

My Recommendation

I’m in favor of both types of electronic meetings – and participate in them on a regular basis. Since I am a remote employee of VerityStream (as are many in our company), much of our business is conducted via electronic meetings – supplemented by in-person meetings when important. I think that both have their place and are valuable ways to conduct business and make decisions.