Patient access leaders at Novant Health eliminated meetings one day each week, and use the time to make in-person rounds. The department reports:

  • higher employee engagement scores;
  • better use of non-productive time spent in meetings;
  • valuable feedback from employees.

Patient access leaders at Winston-Salem, NC-based Novant Health always intended to make regular rounds throughout the department to see how employees were really performing their duties. However, other more pressing deadlines usually took precedence.

“Days tended to get away from us, and we found ourselves pushing it to the back burner,” says Craig Pergrem, senior director of preservice and onsite access.

Recently, the department took a bold step of eliminating their weekly Wednesday meetings from the calendar. Instead, leaders dedicate this time to walking around the department.

“We have seen our employee engagement scores improve drastically over last year,” Pergrem reports. “Overall scores improved from 4.24 to 4.51, which is significant.”

As a senior director responsible for 15 facilities and two call centers, Pergrem dedicates his Wednesdays to visiting as many areas as possible. Freeing up one day each week from meetings didn’t come easily.

“It was a huge undertaking to get it started,” Pergrem says. “Some people felt the other four days would be inundated with meetings.”

Patient access leaders took a closer look at all the meetings on the calendar and evaluated whether they were necessary.

“We looked at whether they were actually relevant, or just an add-on because patient access should be represented,” Pergrem explains.

Instead of two or three representatives from the revenue cycle attending a meeting, one attends and passes on information to colleagues. In some cases, patient access leaders realized that they could provide valuable input electronically instead of attending an entire meeting either in person or over the phone.

“As in many larger systems, you can find yourself spending all day on conference calls,” Pergrem laments.

The day without meetings has become a way of life for patient access.

“It allows the freedom to not just do a quick run through as you head to a meeting, but to actually stop and talk,” Pergrem says.

Saying a quick hello, and asking, “How are things going?” sometimes becomes a learning opportunity for leaders. “I ask, ‘What can we do to improve the processes we have in place?’” Pergrem shares.

Some ideas regarded how to eliminate issues that required rework. For instance, worker’s compensation and third-party insurance followed the same path as other insurance, but the process was not relevant for these types of payers.

“These were errors hitting work queues that didn’t need to be there,” Pergrem says. “Eliminating them saves time.”

One employee suggested creating a preservice/patient access newsletter to improve communication. “The first newsletter just went out,” Pergrem reports. “Team members have been encouraged to give us topics for the future.” Currently, department members are competing to name the newsletter, which features interviews with new leaders, greets recent hires, and introduces fresh processes.

While supervisors and managers always rounded in their departments every day, senior leaders felt less connected to the day-to-day issues employees faced. The day without meetings has changed that.

“We answer questions, educate, and work through issues with team members,” Pergrem adds. “It keeps us involved.”


  • Craig Pergrem, Senior Director, Pre-Service/Onsite Access, Novant Health, Winston-Salem, NC. Phone: (336) 277-7249. Email: wcpergrem@novanthealth.org.