Industry Expertise · July 20, 2020

The Benefits of Interprofessional Collaboration in Healthcare

When it comes to ensuring patients get the best care possible, no provider can go it alone. A complete healthcare team includes multiple providers with different expertise.

Some doctors focus on certain parts of the body, like a pulmonologist whose specialty is the lungs, or a cardiologist who's an expert on the heart. Meanwhile, some nurses work closely with these physicians to coordinate care. There are also pharmacists who oversee a patient's medication, rehabilitation specialists who help with the recovery process and social workers who connect patients to community resources.

Delivering quality patient care requires a high level of interprofessional collaboration between multiple roles. But implementing the systems and processes to make this happen can be challenging. Despite these obstacles, fostering collaboration among healthcare providers often leads to better patient outcomes, which makes the effort well worth it. Here's why.


What is interprofessional collaboration?

Teamwork is the heart of interprofessional collaboration, which involves members of a patient's care team working together and learning from each other to achieve the common goal of delivering the best care possible.

With this approach, each provider brings their expertise to caring for the patient, but the focus is on team success. Doctors listen to nurses—and vice versa—and they coordinate with other providers to create an effective care plan.

An example of this would be someone who has walking pneumonia and a chronic condition such as diabetes. The pulmonologist, infectious disease doctor and internist overseeing the patient's day-to-day treatment will coordinate with an endocrinologist, who specializes in diabetes care. They'll also work with a pharmacist to ensure the medications used to treat the patient's pneumonia don't adversely affect their underlying condition. Meanwhile, a dietician will help ensure the patient is still getting proper nutrition.

Interprofessional collaboration in healthcare is so important because research has shown it can reduce preventable adverse drug reactions, reduce the risk of poor outcomes and ensure patients get the optimal dosage of medication. Healthcare providers also benefit in the form of increased job satisfaction and reducing unnecessary work. However, there are still several barriers to increasing collaboration in healthcare. Overcoming them is critical to delivering better patient outcomes.

Addressing the challenges

One of the biggest barriers to interprofessional collaboration in healthcare is that care delivery has traditionally been very siloed. Healthcare providers who don't work together regularly may not communicate as effectively with one another. They also haven't had a chance to develop a working relationship in which everyone's voice is equally important in developing the patient's care plan. Coordinating with other healthcare facilities, providers and community-based organizations may also be a challenge for these same reasons.

Technology is another issue. Healthcare providers may not have access to all the relevant data they need or background on a patient's medical history. Direct communication with other providers on the patient's care team helps promote access to the timely information they need.

Transforming healthcare delivery

Communication is critical for collaboration, but providers need effective tools to achieve this. Care collaboration platforms are one tool that can transform care delivery. These platforms allow providers to share data and information regarding a patient's care, identify overall care goals, communicate with each other within a secure portal and integrate care plans across different locations. With this more holistic view, providers can work better together to improve patient health.

However, healthcare providers need to do more than collaborate with each other—they also need to collaborate better with community-based organizations. When patients leave the hospital or doctor's office, they may face issues in their environment that impact their ability to take their medication and follow up with their providers. For example, they may not be able to afford their prescriptions. They could face transportation challenges, unstable housing or a lack of a support system at home.

One way to approach this is to assign someone on the patient's care team, such as a nurse, to serve as the point person for communicating with community health workers. By working together, they can coordinate social services that make it easier for patients to be more engaged in their own care. In the long run, this could prevent future hospital stays and improve their overall health.

Collaboration is key to making any team successful. But in healthcare, where the stakes are high, collaboration can help healthcare providers achieve a 360-degree view of a patient's history and the social challenges that affect their health. By creating an environment where everyone's expertise is valued, providers and community health workers can achieve an even more important goal—improving patients' lives for the better.

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