Interprofessional collaboration in health care: a guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Collaboration aids the ability of medical professionals to meet the continuous demands of their services. Through a coordinated effort, team members can improve care delivery. Understanding the concept of collaborative practices can assist human resources or HR professionals at medical institutions in implementing and emphasising collaboration in the workplace. In this article, we discuss interprofessional collaboration, explain how it works and how to create one, including the benefits and barriers common to collaborative practices.

What is interprofessional collaboration?

Interprofessional collaboration is a technique where individuals from two or more professions form a team to achieve a similar objective or solve a complex problem. You may also refer to this as collaborative practice. In a medical environment that uses collaborative practice, health care providers tend to develop competencies for teamwork. It's beneficial for team members to communicate effectively because their level of cooperation can affect the quality of care patients receive. When health care providers work together efficiently, cases of complications, length of a patient's stay in the hospital and mortality rates are likely to reduce.

Related: What is interoperability in health care? (With benefits)

How does a collaborative practice work?

Health care practitioners collaborate with individuals from their field and other professions within the medical system to manage and address patients' physical, psychological and health demands. These professionals work together to provide a person-centred service that can improve the health condition of a patient. If all the health care professionals involved in a patient's care are not working as a team, ambiguity and miscommunication may occur, posing a severe threat to the patient's health. So collaborative practice combines the efforts of various professionals to produce the best results.

Health providers that form the interprofessional care team may include:

  • Physicians: Physicians examine patients' medical histories and conduct physical examinations to determine a likely diagnosis of a patient's condition. They're also responsible for controlling and treating various medical disorders.

  • Nurses: Nurses are advocates for patients' health and wellbeing. They track symptoms and monitor and administer medications to their patients.

  • Physical therapist: Physical therapists or PTs diagnose and treat individuals who may be experiencing medical disorders that can hinder their ability to move and perform daily activities. They help such patients to manage pain, regain their ability to walk and prevent disability.

  • Occupational therapist: Occupational therapists provide therapeutic and rehabilitation treatment to patients. They help patients recover from an injury and work to ensure such patients maintain the ability to execute daily activities.

  • Dietician: A dietician provides nutritional services to patients. They educate patients on their food choices and help them plan healthy meals.

  • Pharmacist: A pharmacist reviews the safety and appropriateness, including a patient's medication record, before supplying prescriptions to the patient. They also educate patients on the proper dosage and drug safety measures.

  • Social workers: The role of a medical social worker is to assess patients to see if they require any physical, mental or emotional care. They work to connect patients and families to community services and provide psychotherapy or supportive counselling to patients.

Related: The importance of project management in health care

How to create interprofessional collaboration

The following are steps to create collaborative practices among health care professionals:

1. Establish goals for collaboration

When health care practitioners collaborate, they strive to attain common goals. A health care system's most common goals include enhancing the quality of health services, improving patient outcomes and lowering the cost of care. Professionals can simplify these aims even further to address a current situation. Establishing common goals guides health care providers in performing their specialised duties while ensuring effective communication among team members.

2. Set a conducive environment

Collaborative practice requires an environment of trust and value, where health care practitioners can freely ask each other questions without feeling uncomfortable. Because the role of each care team member is critical to the quality of treatment a patient receives, it's valuable for health care facilities to avoid treating specific staff preferentially. Equitable treatment reduces tension and encourages team members to work efficiently without fearing negative criticism.

Related: External factors affecting the business environment

3. Identify and remove barriers

Depending on the institution, several factors may hinder collaboration. Some health care institutions may rely on how they've traditionally done things, hindering effective collaboration. For example, an organisation may possess a culture of hosting multiple meetings and demanding the presence of most team members. Instead, they can minimise the number of individuals in discussion sessions to allow more time for team members to collaborate effectively.

4. Provide team members with opportunities to collaborate

A health care facility holds many departments. HR professionals can build a collaborative practice by influencing team members' perspectives. They may launch methods to encourage cross-departmental collaboration, allowing team members to learn how other departments function.

Related: How to work in a fast-paced environment (with examples)

Benefits of collaborative practice in health care

Here are four benefits of collaboration in health care:

Minimises medical errors

Medical blunders can risk patients' lives. As a result, collaborative practice fosters the use of each member of the care team's talent and experience. When health professionals work together, they can perform more efficiently and provide higher-quality treatment than they might if working alone. A collaborative practice encourages group engagement and allows team members to identify problems before they become irreversible. Furthermore, when health care practitioners work together, there's less chance of miscommunication, which may be another significant source of medical errors.

Related: 10 highest paying medical jobs in the UK (with salary info)

Improves patient care outcome

Each health expert possesses a distinct perspective of a patient's condition. When every care provider participating in a patient's treatment is aware of the duties and decisions of the other health care professionals, it allows everyone on the team to perform their responsibilities in ways that complement each other's efforts. This action promotes a comprehensive view of a patient's situation.

For example, different health providers, from doctors to nurses, perform specific duties to ensure the patient's safety during an emergency. The physical therapist may observe a patient's recovery and report to the doctor for examination. This action may lead the doctor to prescribe some medications for the pharmacist to supply. To ensure quality care for the patient, nurses may work shifts to administer medications and treatment according to the doctor's prescription.

Related: What is health informatics? (Career and skills guide)

Increases job satisfaction

When health care providers work together, it helps ensure that the team shares the workload equally. This effort helps to reduce the stress on health professionals. Staff members may become more comfortable with their jobs and experience increased job satisfaction. By complementing each other's efforts, team members also become more productive, and the quality of care may increase.

Related: A guide to managing a heavy workload (with advice and tips)

Improves staff relationship

Collaborative practices help recognise that the role of each care team member is essential. When team members collaborate frequently, it fosters trust and respect among them. This effort contributes to a positive work environment where staff members experience a healthy working connection.

Related: What is a positive working environment? (With benefits)

Common barriers to collaborative practice

The following include common challenges that may hinder collaboration in a health care system:

Differences in levels of authority

There may be a professional hierarchy regarding some medical professions above others. Disparities in authority, power, expertise and income may cause friction in the team. Unfair treatment may be possible and this can hinder collaboration among team members.

Related: 15 jobs with high satisfaction for every experience level

Priorities and objectives differ

Because each health care professional is approaching the patient's care plan from a different perspective, there may be occasions when team members disagree on the best course of action. It is important for all team members to be mindful that they are working with the interests of the patient in mind. To mitigate disagreements, it is important for team members to practice clear communication and objectively assess plans regarding the patient's welfare.

Miscommunications

Effective communication between professionals is critical to collaboration. If health care providers don't interact well, communication gaps may result in the loss of critical information. This action may lead to invalid assumptions, hindering effective patient care.

Related: 8 ethical issues in business and how to manage them

Variance in the level of experience

Since every health care practitioner holds a unique training and education procedure, there may be differences in the level of their experiences. Those with less experience may strive to understand why a superior made a decision. If there's no respect and acceptance of the opinions of each health professional involved in delivering health services, the level of expertise can affect a patient's care and treatment.

Absence of trust

When certain team members cannot rely on the competency of others, there's a lack of trust. The absence of trust can lead to miscommunication and conflicts, hindering teamwork. Health care professionals can maximise regular opportunities for cooperation to create trustful connections.

Explore more articles