The importance of interprofessional collaboration methods in healthcare
Interprofessional collaboration in healthcare takes place when different specialists work together to provide total healthcare to patients and support to their families. It is based on the belief that a network of experts can provide a higher level of care to a patient than just a doctor. Healthcare is complicated, and it is impossible for a single person to have all the knowledge and skills that a team of experts has at their disposal.
The world of healthcare is fast-paced. If you try to take on more than your expertise allows, it can lead to burnout and mistakes. There is a reason that well-run medical facilities have many different experts on hand ready to address various healthcare needs. For example, if a patient comes in with a suspected major fracture, a nurse or physician assistant may conduct a primary evaluation but then send the patient to an X-ray technician to get an in-depth look. After the fracture is diagnosed and the patient is offered primary treatment, a referral might be given for follow-up surgery or physical therapy.
Interprofessional collaboration allows for more effective patient care
When patients have access to a team of healthcare professionals in many different specialties and disciplines, they can be treated in a more efficient manner without compromising the overall quality of the care they receive. It is much faster to send a patient through a well-structured triage of experts than it is to have one or two people trying to do everything.
Healthcare professionals often refer patients to specialty clinics, surgeons, and more
Patient referrals are common. For example, suppose your primary care doctor finds a lump in your neck during your physical. In that case, they may refer you to an ultrasound imaging center and then book an appointment at their office after the imaging center provides the results.
The variety of services and diagnostics provided by general practice doctors is often limited in scope. While some basic lab tests may be done in-house, when you get blood drawn at your primary care doctor, they usually send your samples to a laboratory and await the results.
What are the main components of a successful interprofessional collaboration?
On the surface, collaboration in healthcare is just assigning a task to a specialist and waiting for results. In practice, however, it is more complex. Individual patients often have many choices when it comes to healthcare providers. While there may be some limitations, such as finding a trusted provider who accepts a specific insurance or one who works for the same affiliated medical group, there are still likely to be multiple options.
Collaboration requires good communication
Good interpersonal collaboration is built on consistently solid communication among all healthcare specialists involved with patients, their families and other supporting parties.
Collaboration for the total care of a patient and their family may include counselors, social workers and mental health specialists. Ensuring everyone is on the same page is essential in providing the best care and avoiding conflicts and misunderstanding.
Collaborators must respect each other’s professional opinions
In healthcare, you must have a healthy professional respect for the opinions of those you collaborate with regularly. There is no time for questioning every opinion. At the same time, errors sometimes occur. Professionals need to be able to handle being questioned about treatment or diagnosis. Sometimes it is just a matter of clarifying something simple, but no one is perfect. Occasionally, a collaborator may pick up on something that was overlooked or a minor mistake.
Always remember that part of the beauty of working as a team is that you have each other’s back. Mistakes are less likely to significantly impact patient care when there is a high level of respect for your collaborators’ expertise.
The major benefits of collaboration in healthcare
Here is a look at some of the top benefits of effective collaboration in healthcare.
1. Patient outcomes are improved
Patients who receive fast and efficient care from a team have lower mortality and complication rates. Even when a patient is sent to multiple departments while being treated at a hospital, the team in charge of their care can access the patient’s status at all times. Computer networks allow the sharing of diagnostics and results as soon as they are known, so there is no delay in a team member getting the information they need to continue offering their own expertise.
2. Collaboration reduces the number of medical errors, thereby saving lives
Mistakes happen, despite the high level of training and years of experience required to be a medical professional. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of patient deaths may be attributed to medical errors. This could be as simple as offering the wrong medication or going with a certain diagnosis but overlooking another condition.
When a team of experts can form a formal diagnosis and check over one another’s work, there are fewer errors. Since working with an interprofessional team requires constant communication and meticulous note-taking, professionals can look back on previous tests and records and make better decisions regarding patient health.
3. Reduction in healthcare costs
There is no doubt that the cost of healthcare has risen significantly over the last decade. Some of this may be due to advances in treatment options. There are some conditions that are far more treatable than they once were, but that comes at a cost.
Collaboration allows medical professionals to treat more people at a lower cost because the entire treatment protocol of a patient is streamlined and performed in a more efficient manner. When everyone is doing what they know best and excel at, everything can be done faster and at a lower cost without compromising the quality of the care received.
4. Better morale and job satisfaction
Collaboration creates a supportive work environment and raises morale. Working as a team is incredibly satisfying when it is well organized and the lines of communication are always open.
When good communication is encouraged, no one gets left out, so it is less likely that a team member will ever feel like their contributions are not acknowledged or appreciated enough.
Worker morale and satisfaction ultimately impact patient outcomes and the efficiency of a facility. Good morale means workers are more likely to go the extra mile with patients. This means being better listeners and expressing a higher level of empathy.
Tips leaders can use to improve collaboration and efficiency
Healthcare administrators play a major role in ensuring medical facilities are structured to encourage collaboration and teamwork. Over time, some changes may be needed. A good example of this is when there are significant changes in staffing. A large number of newly hired workers means that trust between new and old workers needs to be established.
Here are some tips for encouraging teamwork and collaboration.
1. Encourage mentorship between new and older employees
No matter how talented a new hire may be, they could quickly find themselves overwhelmed during the first month of working at a new place, especially if this is their first job out of school. Therefore, assigning a more experienced professional to mentor them during orientation is strongly advised. This will increase morale and reduce the odds of them making beginner mistakes.
2. Offer adequate training
Healthcare leaders need to make sure that there is a reasonable training and orientation period for new hires. Continuing education beyond the bare minimum to stay licensed in an employee’s field of expertise should be highly encouraged by providing compensation and time off for certifications and classes. Although this undoubtedly costs money up front, it results in overall savings and benefits. Well-trained and knowledgeable team members will have the tools to provide better care and make fewer mistakes throughout their employment.
3. Look for better ways to network with other healthcare professionals in your area
Conferences and online meetups are great ways for healthcare professionals to network and collaborate. In today’s age of Zoom meetings, there is little excuse not to attend at least some networking opportunities, even with a busy schedule. As a leader, you can set up a mini-conference of your own through the facility where you work.
4. Make sure you have a good system for employee suggestions and feedback
The last thing you want is a workplace scenario where employees are afraid to offer suggestions for improvements or speak up when there is a concern. Even if half the concerns you hear about are not major, it is worth it to wade through your inbox to find the concerns that can greatly impact the workplace and patient care.
You may choose to have an email address set up specifically for concerns and feedback and a drop box for anonymous notes to encourage even those who are reluctant to speak up. Regardless of your method, you must make it clear to your team that you are always there for them and willing to listen.
5. Be on the lookout for new technology to help create a better team environment
While many medical facilities have databases and messaging systems for quick communications within a medical network, they are not always kept up to date. Improvements in software and communications systems can help foster collaboration.
Networking with many different professionals and learning what they use at their facilities is one way to stay in touch with what others are using. Occasionally checking online for new technological tools and systems is also a good idea.
6. Encourage continuing education and specialized certification programs
All healthcare professionals should consider getting extra certifications or advanced degrees at some point in their careers. Extra certifications help potential patients, and their families are reassured when personnel are well-trained and trying their best to provide a high level of patient care. An AGACNP is a great example of an online certification program for working professionals. Click here to learn more about whether a post master’s AGACNP certificate program from Rockhurst University is right for you.
Hiring practices for building a great team environment
If you are an administrator, it is important to take a good look at your organization’s recruitment and hiring practices. Your facility and the level of care they provide are only as good as the people hired to work together. Here are some tips for ensuring you are hiring the best candidates for a great team environment.
1. Expand your recruitment range
Many medical facilities are experiencing trouble filling positions due to a lack of qualified applicants in their area. Advertising a job opening on a national level is becoming more common. It is important to be open to finding applicants and even offering some relocation assistance. This allows your facility to gain access to a wider pool of talent.
2. Consider more than just professional degrees and qualifications
While education is very important in a candidate, overall experience and personality also matter. A very motivated and enthusiastic candidate with slightly less experience may be a better fit for creating a great team than someone who gives the impression they are in healthcare just for the job stability and salary. Experienced human resources managers can often tell if a person is a good fit for the team.
3. Do not be too impatient
While there may be times when you need a position to be filled urgently, it is a good rule to allow adequate time for finding and hiring the right person for a position. Orienting a new employee takes time and costs money. If you rush the hiring process too much, it increases the odds of hiring someone that is not the best fit for a long-term position.
4. Consider bringing in temporary help while searching for the right permanent employee
Plenty of hospitals and other medical facilities use temporary healthcare employee placements to fill in gaps while they find qualified people for permanent positions. These traveling nurses and assistants are great at adapting to new team environments. Plenty of them are very experienced nurses who decided to make a career change and experience working in different areas.
5. Interprofessional collaboration in healthcare research and networking
Thanks to inexpensive telecommunications and the internet’s broader reach, interprofessional collaboration on an international scale is now possible. This means the brightest and most innovative minds in healthcare can now easily communicate in real time.
6. International collaboration is invaluable to healthcare research
There is always a need to find more effective and affordable ways to prevent and treat medical conditions. As new diseases and conditions arise, the benefits of international collaboration in finding solutions become even more important.
Consider what happened when COVID-19 emerged as a problem in China that quickly spread worldwide. There was a major race to discover how the disease manifested itself, why it was so contagious and other important factors. Specialists worldwide shared information and research to find solutions to combat the spread of the illness and treat patients.
7. International networking
With international travel and immigration being much more common than they once were, doctors worldwide are finding themselves needing to know how to treat conditions they are unfamiliar with. It is hard to diagnose a problem you are not familiar with. For example, there are still occasional cases of bubonic plague in the American southwest but not in the southeast. Tick-related diseases are often missed by doctors who have not lived in areas where they are common.
Students and post-doctoral fellows can gain valuable experience through international exchange programs and research fellowships. These types of programs are becoming more common as it has become easier for collaboration to take place and international travel has become more affordable.
Tips for creating healthcare research teams
Here is some advice for creating more effective healthcare research teams.
1. Look for the most motivated and passionate professionals
Research takes immense dedication and the ability to keep going, even when a study might seem like it is just not working out. Team members need to be passionate about what they do. You want the type of professional on your team who wakes up excited to go to their job.
2. Call on a variety of expertise
Good research requires a team of experts from a variety of niches. Getting the opinion of well-known and respected professionals will help your research avoid time-consuming mistakes. It is important to be patient when getting feedback from others.
3. Have a clear plan
A solid plan is important for team building. While everyone knows this can take some time, it is critical that you don’t try to put together a team until you have clear goals and objectives. No one is going to sign on for something that seems ill-conceived.
Collaboration is an essential part of modern medical care. The healthcare field has experienced outstanding treatment methods and equipment improvements over the last few decades. More professionals than ever are specializing in one particular area of medicine, creating an environment that fosters a higher standard of care with greater efficiency.
Healthcare leaders should always look for ways to facilitate a stronger team environment and better lines of communication throughout their medical network