Practice efficiency

Benefits of Interprofessional Collaboration in Healthcare

October 18, 2023
6 min read
Last updated on
  • Interprofessional collaboration in healthcare involves healthcare providers working together on a patient’s care plan. When healthcare professionals collaborate, it has the potential to enhance care plans, increase patient engagement, and potentially lead to improved outcomes.
  • Despite the obvious benefits, certain aspects of healthcare — like fragmented health systems, legacy technology, and outdated communication methods — create barriers to interprofessional collaboration. 
  • Solutions like Klara can help overcome these barriers by streamlining provider collaboration, communication, workflows, and more.
Benefits of Interprofessional Collaboration in Healthcare

Patient-centered care has been around for decades. In fact, the term was first coined in the 1950s by U.S. psychologist Carl Rogers to “describe building a relationship of trust between therapist and patient in order for the latter to be able to fulfill his or her potential in life.” Since then, the concept has evolved beyond psychology and is a mainstay in modern healthcare. Today, providers take a patient-first approach that prioritizes the needs, preferences, and values of each individual patient, encouraging them to take an active role in their care and collaborating with healthcare providers on comprehensive care plans. 

The concept of care collaboration is newer and continues to gain momentum. Many credit the World Health Organization for kickstarting the movement with arguments and case studies on the benefits of interprofessional collaboration in primary health care. It’s a true win-win for providers and patients — and this post shows you why.

Table of contents

The definition of interprofessional collaboration

By definition, interprofessional collaboration is a strategy whereby individuals from different disciplines work together with a common goal. In healthcare, interprofessional collaboration allows key players in different health professions to participate in a patient’s overall care. Such players may include physicians, medical assistants, nurses, pharmacists and social workers. The patient remains involved and, depending on the situation, so do their family members and any caregivers.

For example, a patient with diabetes may have a team of experts helping them manage their condition. Their primary care physician monitors their overall health and treatment plan, a nurse practitioner does regular check-ups and provides self-care education, a pharmacist assists with medication management and adherence, a dietician creates a healthy eating plan specifically for diabetes, and a social worker provides resources or services to help with any social determinants of health. 

No matter the circumstances, each member of a care team brings their core competencies to the table and works together to create a comprehensive care plan that addresses the patient’s needs — be they medical, nutritional, social or emotional. As a result, the patient receives care and attention in a more holistic manner.

How important is interprofessional collaboration within your team?

There’s a reason why interprofessional education has become part of a medical student’s curriculum. We talk more about the potential benefits below, but want to stress first that if you’re interested in this strategy, you have to really commit. This means staying in regular communication with other collaborative partners, adapting to new approaches that might be necessary, and getting ahead of other challenges.

Challenges of interprofessional collaboration

If you’re not already following a collaborative care model, consider these challenges so you know what to expect and how to prepare:

Poor communication

Communication is challenging for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, you and a collaborator could speak different languages or use different medical terminology to refer to the same thing. On the other, different care team members could use different technology systems that don’t easily talk to one another, so messages could get delayed. And let’s not get started on phone tag. All in all, miscommunication — or simply a misunderstanding — could lead to delays or errors in care. 

Misunderstanding of roles

Changing power dynamics and role ambiguity are also possible, especially when making decisions. Who has the final say? Are players going to respect the decision of someone who might technically be at a lower level than they are? Are you on the same page about who is responsible for what? Consider defining roles and responsibilities upfront to avoid tension, confusion, or duplication of efforts. 

Resource constraints

Limited resources — like staffing, funding, equipment, and especially time — can create barriers to effective interprofessional collaboration. To help overcome these challenges, you may wish to explore these strategies:

  • Use technology to facilitate care team communication and automate key workflows
  • Schedule a standing meeting once a week for updates. The Medical Group Management Association outlines ways to keep meetings structured, aligned, and productive. 
  • Leverage social workers and other community resources as needed.
  • Make sure your patients have the information they need to take an active role in their own care.

Cultural differences

You might have different cultural beliefs and values than other professionals on a patient’s care team. For example, you might be more accustomed to certain power structures, or another professional might have certain fundamental views on how to approach treatment for a certain illness. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to foster a culture of respect and inclusivity so everyone feels seen and heard — and to enable your patient to get the care they need.

Benefits of interprofessional collaboration

As we’ve mentioned, there are numerous benefits to collaborative practice. Here are five to consider for your practice and your patients.

More holistic care

When health professionals work together, care plans are based on the full picture of a patient’s health. Decisions aren’t made in siloes. Instead, the care team confers together prior to recommending treatments. 

Better patient engagement and satisfaction

Patients want to feel cared for when they see their doctors. Whether they’re going for a preventative visit or need treatment for an acute disease, condition, or injury, they want their questions answered and their concerns addressed. They also want a treatment plan that will work. 

Maine Medical Center launched a team care program called Interprofessional Partnerships to Advance Care and Education (iPACE) to create cohesion and better engage with and care for their patients. The program manager, Melissa Zelaya-Floyd, Ph.D., says of iPACE, “It is a way to demystify medicine for the patient and it allows this opportunity for the patient to peek into the process. Additionally, it gives the patient the opportunity to have a voice in developing the plan of care. And it extends beyond the patient to the family as well.” When patients have a voice and are more engaged, they’re potentially more likely to advocate for your practice through word-of-mouth with friends or positive online reviews.

More efficient care

Interprofessional collaboration can drive efficiency in a couple of ways, including streamlining care by eliminating duplicate efforts between different providers.

Increased education and learning

Healthcare workers will ultimately educate and learn from each other when they work collaboratively on their patients’ care plans. They can share best practices, develop new skills, and see that there isn’t always one way to approach a patient.

Improved job satisfaction and employee retention

With nearly 1 in 5 healthcare workers quitting their jobs since the pandemic began in 2020, finding and keeping qualified medical staff is a challenge. In fact, Medical Economics found that staffing is the second top challenge facing physicians in 2023. A collaborative practice model is one of many factors that may help resolve staffing issues. When patients have better outcomes, their providers will likely feel more pride in their work. This sense of purpose can be motivating and make them feel happier and more fulfilled.

Additionally, working with a team offers opportunities for leadership — another confidence boost — as well as reduced burnout. After all, collaborating with other healthcare professionals can help alleviate workloads and make space for emotional support as needed.

How Klara can help advance collaboration within provider teams

Streamlined communication is key to a successful interprofessional collaboration strategy. With Klara, you can easily communicate with patients as well as internal and external providers. There’s a single conversation thread, the ability to assign individual messages to certain people, and ways to make document transfers or discuss prior authorizations, referrals and consults. 

Keeping all communication in one place — and all care team members on the same page — can empower you to do more in less time. And there’s more. Visit www.klara.com or schedule a demo today.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards.

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