Why is interprofessional collaboration so important? Because when you foster a collaborative culture (and implement communication strategies and techniques to support it), you:
1. Improve patient outcomes and care
A patient arrives at the emergency department (ED) complaining of chest pains. An emergency room doctor examines him, followed by a cardiologist, who orders tests and awaits the radiologist’s results, confirming both doctors suspected that the patient has a heart attack.
Following emergency surgery, the patient spends a day in the ICU, where he is cared for by a team of nurses in 12-hour shifts, before being transferred to a cardiac unit, where he meets his new team of rotating nurses. During rounds, a hospitalist (or perhaps his primary care doctor) visits him every morning during his stay. The cardiologist concurs, as do an endocrinologist and pulmonologist, given the patient’s diabetes and COPD. Physical therapists, dieticians, and social workers may also be involved depending on the patient’s recovery and lifestyle.
Each individual has a distinct viewpoint and valuable insights into the patient. They notice various symptoms and consider multiple possibilities. They have a more holistic view of the patient when working together. However, these individuals are rarely, if ever, in the same room. At best, they share data via EHR but frequently lack a way to communicate directly in real time.
Many hospitals now encourage team-based, patient-centered rounds that include the primary doctor, bedside nurse, specialized physicians, and other relevant team members, in addition to care team meetings. This promotes patient-centered care as well as interprofessional collaboration in healthcare.
It also helps to have hospital communication technology that allows care teams to communicate and collaborate on the go or at the point of care — via text, voice, or video.
2. Reduce medical mistakes.
Communication breakdowns in healthcare can have serious consequences, ranging from missed symptoms to misdiagnoses to medication errors. Medical errors claim the lives of 250,000 people each year. According to Johns Hopkins, it is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
With multiple doctors prescribing multiple medications and multiple nurses delivering those medications, it’s easy to see how mistakes can occur. Although EHR notes can be helpful, clinical communication is essential. This includes holding a group discussion, bringing in a pharmacist for some interprofessional collaboration, and ensuring nurses have the information they need to treat patients safely.
Interprofessional collaboration in healthcare has been shown in studies to help reduce preventable adverse drug reactions, lower mortality rates, and optimize medication dosages.
3. Begin treatment sooner.
Much of healthcare is a game of waiting. Patients wait for doctors, while doctors wait for other doctors to consult them or for radiology to send back lab results.
Delays in communication frustrate patients and waste valuable time, allowing conditions to worsen. That is why, as a National Patient Safety Goal, the Joint Commission consistently lists “improve staff communication” and “get important test results to the right staff person on time.”
Interprofessional collaboration, once again, bridges the gap. Clinical communication technology is no exception. It connects care team members (allowing them to contact that physician who hasn’t entered notes into the EHR) and automates alerts (so they receive text messages when critical lab results come in). A care team collaboration platform generally delivers the correct information to the right people at the right time through secure messaging, voice, or video.
4. Reduce waste and healthcare costs.
Interprofessional collaboration in healthcare aids in preventing medication errors, improving the patient experience (and thus HCAHPS), and delivering better patient outcomes, all of which can reduce healthcare costs. It also saves money for hospitals by eliminating workflow redundancies and operational inefficiencies.
5. Improve employee relations and job satisfaction.
Every medical specialty has its subculture, knowledge base, and philosophy. Some members’ voices are prioritized over others when power structures are introduced. That is neither good for the patient nor good for staff morale.
Interprofessional collaboration levels the playing field and recognizes that everyone on the care team is essential. That sense of belonging and camaraderie can also help employee retention and recruitment.
Explain how interprofessional collaboration will help reduce errors, provide higher-quality care, and increase safety. Provide an example of a current or emerging trend that will require more, or change the nature of, interprofessional collaboration.