What is interprofessional collaboration in healthcare? And why is it important?

eXo Platform Blog

Getting individuals and teams to collaborate effectively on an ongoing basis is among the top priorities for many organizations regardless of their size and industry.

The reason is simple. If done right, collaboration can prove to be the difference between success and failure. And in the case of the healthcare industry, collaboration is vital to facilitate the exchange of critical knowledge, provide better patient care and potentially save lives. However, achieving great levels of collaboration and team cohesion between healthcare practitioners is by no means an easy feat. It requires a combination of policies, best practices and tools that can help teams work better together.

In this blog post, we will cover three main questions:

(1) What is the concept of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare?

(2) Why is it important?

(3) How can digital workplace solutions support interprofessional collaboration?

  1. What is interprofessional collaboration in healthcare?

In general, interprofessional collaboration occurs between individuals from different teams, disciplines and backgrounds, whether internally within the same organization or externally.

This type of collaboration can bring a host of benefits to the involved parties. Collaborating with people from different areas of expertise can help to eliminate bias, widen perspectives and drive innovation. This eventually leads to effective decision making, better offerings and improved customer service.

In the healthcare industry, interprofessional collaboration is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the collaborative practice that occurs when “multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work together with patients, families, carers and communities to deliver the highest quality of care across settings”.

For example, think of a typical hospital set-up. Any given patient would be taken care of by multiple health practitioners, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and so on. In order for the involved parties to reach their common objective (which is to treat the patient) and eliminate medical errors associated with poor communication, they need to communicate, collaborate and share knowledge in real time.

  1. Why is interprofessional collaboration important?

As is the case with many other industries, healthcare has its fair share of challenges, the most obvious of which are disconnected teams and departments, timely access to critical patient records and training material, and lack of communication between staff and patients.

To overcome these challenges, it’s crucial to create the perfect environment and culture for interprofessional collaboration to take place, where healthcare practitioners with different backgrounds and professions can come together to try and deliver an optimal patient experience.

The role of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare is vital as it brings a host of benefits including, but not limited to, those described below.

  • Improve the overall patient journey

A patient journey represents the various events and activities that a patient has to navigate within a typical healthcare system. It starts with an appointment, scheduling all the way to tests, diagnosis, eventual treatment and follow-up.

Each event within the patient journey requires continuous collaboration between the involved parties (healthcare staff, patients, families and the community). This is when interprofessional collaboration happens.

For example, let’s walk through a typical patient experience. Usually, when patients visit a hospital, they will be taken care of by the ER or they may have already booked an appointment to see a doctor. In both cases and depending on the condition, they can be transferred to another department for tests (blood tests, scans, etc.) to further understand their condition.

Although patients have their unique records that will eventually follow them within their stay, their condition and symptoms may change in a matter of hours, which makes it hard to synchronize efforts between rotating nurses, doctors, radiologists and others, each of whom have their unique experience and expertise that may contribute to identifying the right treatment at the right time.

The only challenge, though, is that these different teams don’t necessarily have the same working schedule and solely rely on the patients’ files, which can become obsolete or outdated if the condition at hand evolves quickly.

The solution for many hospitals is to provide and create the right environment that will foster collaboration and encourage healthcare professionals to join their efforts to streamline the patient journey and improve decision making and the quality of care. To achieve this, many entities of the healthcare ecosystem started to restructure their teams, taking into consideration collaboration best practices and frameworks (such as SABR among others) and deploying specialized tools with the potential to support such initiatives.

  • Facilitate access to critical information

In order to provide the highest quality of care and prevent medical errors, healthcare professionals working jointly on a specific case need easy and timely access to critical information.

As mentioned earlier, a failure to gather valuable insights from other teams may slow the treatment process or lead to inaccurate diagnosis, which poses a threat to patients’ health and safety.

For example, the absence of a centralized knowledge base or adequate communication channels may lead important documents such as test results to be lost in endless email threads or paperwork, which is not ideal, especially in critical cases.

With the right collaborative practices and tools in place to support interprofessional collaboration, different teams can speed up the onboarding and diagnosis phases and quickly move to intervention and treatment.

  • Encourage the exchange of expertise

Getting individuals with different backgrounds and experiences to work together isn’t a guarantee of success. Multiple issues can result from this collaboration, especially if there haven’t been any frameworks or guidelines in place to help organize this process.

Each individual may have his/her own beliefs, points of view and vision on how to deal with certain situations. Add to that biases associated with each profession and a lack of knowledge of peers’ work or added value, and this collaboration may carry more harm than good for everyone involved.

The very essence of a fruitful interprofessional collaboration is the ability of healthcare professionals to understand their own roles and responsibilities as well as those of their counterparts. This will eventually pave the way to knowledge sharing and the exchange of expertise as each professional has a detailed understanding of what they can bring to the table and how they can help their peers or benefit from their expertise.

  • Eliminate communication silos

Communication silos and disconnected teams and departments are arguably among the most recurrent challenges for many industries, especially healthcare.

Traditionally, healthcare professionals had neither the right techniques nor the tools to streamline communication and only referred to patients’ charts and records to keep track of patient status. This often leads to inaccuracies and errors, reduces cost efficiency and affects the overall quality of care.

Ideally, teams involved in a specific case would place the patients’ needs at the heart of their operations and would collaborate and coordinate accordingly. Yet, this is easier said than done. As we mentioned earlier, there are a host of barriers (be it organizational, financial, technological and, of course, human) that hinder collaboration.

When provided with communication tools designed for the healthcare industry and, of course, the right frameworks, healthcare teams would be able to operate in harmony, synchronize their interventions and stay up to date with various information that not only relates to the cases at hand but also to the entire hospital network (news, events, latest research studies, training material, etc.).

  • Prevent medical errors

As the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, according to a Johns Hopkins research study, medical errors are a major concern for healthcare institutions.

Medical errors are due to multiple causes, ranging from poor communication and limited access to timely knowledge, all the way to lapses of concentration, stress and burnout, among others.

Regardless of the cause, be it intrinsic or extrinsic, interprofessional collaboration plays an important role in preventing medical errors, and guarantees the safety of patients.

For example, if the error is caused by the absence of a clear communication model that, in turn, resulted in a mis- or late diagnosis, this can be rectified by first setting clear goals and expectations and, secondly, supporting these by ensuring adequate frameworks, tools and the right individuals are in place.

  • Engage medical staff and avoid burnout

A number of studies conducted to measure the engagement of healthcare professionals revealed some worrying statistics. For instance, one Harvard report found that half of all doctors surveyed reported symptoms often correlated with burnout at work, such as depression, exhaustion and job dissatisfaction. Another study conducted on nursing engagement found that 14.4% of nurses feel disengaged, with a further 41% feeling burnt out.

Burnout in any profession – and especially healthcare – can have severe consequences on the levels of care provided, and can lead to medical errors.

Long hour shifts and being constantly in the frontlines (especially during the times of Covid-19), along with high demands and expectations – both in terms of the job itself as well as the emotional investment in talking with and comforting patients – can lead healthcare personnel to feel overwhelmed and burnt out.

To effectively face this challenge, many healthcare organizations are investing heavily in both process and software that will help them first measure the levels of engagement and well-being and then act accordingly.

Having the floor that will promote and favour interprofessional collaboration is key to helping employees feel empowered and engaged at work. Being part of a team and having clear expectations and clear processes in place, along with a transparent culture, is proven to limit burnout, engage workers, improve job satisfaction and reduce turnover rates.

  1.  How does the digital workplace support interprofessional collaboration?

As a highly regulated industry with different teams collaborating daily on critical information such as patient records, documentation, invoices, test results, and so on, healthcare institutions require a combination of tools to better manage and organize their operations.

From communication and collaborative solutions, all the way to knowledge, project management and portals, the possibilities are endless for healthcare IT buyers.

However, decision makers should be wary about collaborative tool overload – a phenomenon that has seen many organizations spend heavily on a collection of software solutions for little to no return since employees are trapped in a never-ending loop of software applications and platforms.

In recent years, many healthcare organizations have turned their attention to digital workplace solutions to manage their operations both at a team and an organizational level.

The proven ability of a digital workplace to both encompass a host of native apps and integrate them with legacy systems makes such apps an attractive proposition for healthcare. Below are some of their advantages:

  • They eliminate communication silos through social and content management features such as news and microblogs;
  • They create a rich knowledge base, where staff can easily and quickly locate and find what they are looking for, thereby speeding up intervention and treatment times;
  • They enable people to collaborate within spaces that can be dedicated to either teams, departments or entire clinics, where staff can share updates in real time on specific cases and share any questions or training materials.
  • Provide patients with a patients portal that will allow them to get in touch with their medical staff and avoid any confusions regarding appointments, scheduling and any other procedures.
  • Measure engagement with analytics features and build tailored engagement, recognition and gamification programs
  • Provide frontline and deskless employees with a mobile solution containing everything they need to communicate and collaborate instantly.

 

What is collaboration?

Collaboration is “the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing”.

See the full definition of collaboration


What are the different types of collaboration in business?

Here are some definitions of digital workplace:

  • Team collaboration
  • Cross-departmental and interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Community collaboration
  • Strategic partnerships and alliances
  • Supply chain collaboration

Find out the different types of collaboration in business


How to choose the best type of collaboration?

In order to effectively find the right type of collaboration for your business, you have to follow a strategic approach and answer three common yet critical questions: Where are we? Where do we want to be? And how to get there?
Find out How to choose the best type of collaboration


What is interprofessional collaboration in healthcare?

In general, interprofessional collaboration occurs between individuals from different teams, disciplines and backgrounds, whether internally within the same organization or externally.

Find out the definition of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare


Why is interprofessional collaboration important?

Here are some of the benefits of interprofessional collaboration in Healthcare:

  1. Improve the overall patient journey
  2. Facilitate access to critical information
  3. Encourage the exchange of expertise
  4. Eliminate communication silos
  5. Prevent medical errors
  6. Engage medical staff and avoid burnout

Find out the benefits of interprofessional collaboration in Healthcare

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Product Marketing Specialist

I am a product marketing specialist at eXo. My role is to assist marketing and sales teams in their operations and present our digital workplace solution to the world. I mainly blog about the latest tech trends, digital transformation, internal communication and how to navigate through eXo Platform.

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