Nurses make up the largest workforce in the United States with over 3.6 million registered nurses taking care of the country’s healthcare needs. In Canada, there are almost half a million registered nurses. Because nurses are at the center of so many healthcare journeys, they communicate with patients, patient families, doctors and specialists, creating an interconnected web of relationships.
With the need and severity of care required rising, the value of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare also grows. However, healthcare has historically been very siloed often creating barriers to care and favourable patient outcomes.
Luckily as more technology is adopted in healthcare, and as more health-industry-focused technology is created, it is becoming easier for staff to collaborate as a team.
Here are some of the benefits teams will experience as they begin the interprofessional collaboration journey.
Communication gaps are closed
Think back to the last time you had a medical appointment, how many members of a care team did you interact with? A nurse? A med student? A doctor? A specialist? A pharmacist?
It’s unlikely that you saw only a doctor, who looked at your chart, took a history, made a diagnosis and sent you on your way. Working independently like this could lead to missed symptoms or miscommunication about patient needs – which is why this model of care is not one you see very often anymore.
When healthcare professionals work together they communicate vital information about their patients – often in life-or-death situations. For patients with chronic illnesses and a wide array of needs, interprofessional collaboration can make their care journey a smoother (and safer) one.
Minimize readmission rates
When communication gaps are closed, quality of care increases, thereby lowering readmission rates. Why? There are usually two primary factors healthcare providers focus on: diagnosis and treatment.
For example, if a patient is misdiagnosed, they may receive inappropriate treatment, or none at all. Both of these can lead a patient to be readmitted for care. This is costly for providers, and can lead to penalties if a senior is readmitted to an acute facility in a certain time period.
Interprofessional collaboration can lead to an accurately diagnosed patient, with the correct medications and follow-up appointments scheduled with the appropriate provider. This outcome is not only good for the patient but for the provider’s bottom line and reputation.
Most healthcare settings are short on staff, making time a precious commodity for healthcare providers. When staff are feeling overwhelmed, rushed and under pressure, collaborating with colleagues can prevent costly mistakes from happening.
Patient information isn’t the only thing that can be shared. Sharing new techniques and technologies can lead to more efficient care and improved outcomes.
Fewer errors also lead to fewer costs. By contributing knowledge and skills to care in a collaborative environment, each team member has access to pertinent information reducing not only morbidity and mortality rates, but fewer adverse drug reactions, overprescriptions and duplicate tests. In turn, this can lead to fewer malpractice lawsuits, benefitting a provider’s reputation in the community.
Higher worker retention
Chronic understaffing has affected the healthcare industry for years. Staff are overworked and burnt out. Creating a supportive and fulfilling work environment is key to attracting and retaining staff, and while caregiving is an essential part of a provider’s job – it is not the only focus.
Employees who feel like their contributions and actions are valued are more likely to stick around.
Fostering a collaborative workplace culture enables employees to see how their individual actions contribute to the larger success of patients, teams and the organization as a whole.
This focus on community can foster better employee engagement, retention and recruitment.
Promote patient-centred care
The goal of all healthcare providers is the same – to provide the best care possible. In environments where interprofessional collaboration is encouraged, it is not individuals caring for a patient, but a team working together for the best possible outcome.
When a healthcare team collaborates they can consider symptoms and treatments based on their particular expertise or past experiences, creating a more comprehensive diagnostic and care plan. Whether this collaboration takes place in person during meetings or rounds, or via shared data in Electronic Health Records (EHR) or Electronic Medical Records (EMR), or even technology that enables secure conversations, access to information and data empowers providers to focus on the patient in front of them.
The Final word
Healthcare is a high-stakes industry. There can often be little – or no – room for error. Each case has multiple variables, contributing factors and people involved, further complicating processes and outcomes.
Consistent high quality has to be delivered. Interprofessional collaboration is one key innovation in ensuring that quality is realized. Connectivity and communication, whether fostered by technology solutions or by in-person conversation benefits each person engaged in healthcare.