IntroductionTeamwork involves two or more people interacting interdependently, with a shared purpose, working toward defined and measurable goals that benefit from leadership that upholds stability while encouraging discussion and problem-solving. In the field of healthcare, teamwork and collaboration are the inter-professional collaborations which are the collective phrase used to refer to the synergy achieved when multiple people (in this case health workers), from different departments and professional backgrounds, work together with patients, their caregivers, communities and other stakeholders, to deliver the best quality of care achievable (Vega & Bernard, 2017). Collaboration and teamwork in the healthcare industry are achievable when each piece/person in the overall collective considers the other's perspective. As one of the core competencies defined by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), teamwork and collaboration is a vital component of any functional healthcare institution, especially in the current digital age (2013). This reflective paper thus shows how teamwork and collaboration improve professional practice, patient outcomes and healthcare in general.
Healthcare Benefits of Teamwork and Collaboration
Vega & Bernard (2017) argue teamwork and collaboration are an exception and the rule as it should be (as far as healthcare is concerned). As this paper views, it implies a casual approach toward teamwork and collaboration. Hence it is something that will be discussed in staff meetings but not practiced on a day-to-day basis. Bhatt & Swick (2017) agree with Vega & Bernard (2017) that there is a need for healthcare professionals to shift their activities and focus towards a more collaborative whole. This case means that health workers within an institution should adopt collaborative techniques of service delivery, hospitals and other institutions should also have collaborative relationships with each other. These collaborative ties thus develop and become more interconnected to state/national levels.
The first benefit of increased Interprofessional collaboration is the increase in quality of service delivery. Bhatt & Swick (2017) established that to increase the quality and safety of care, collaboration between healthcare professionals is a necessity. This situation, as the author explained, is because there need to be consistent standards of quality from department to department/hospital-to-hospital. Hence, if a patient is transferred from one department to another for say, a test, he/she notices (or should notice that) the quality of care/safety has not changed. It is common for patients to complain of a pharmacy section being too slow or laboratory tests done improperly. This case can further translate to patient complaints when they are transferred from one healthcare institution to another. This paper puts forth that these complaints arise from disjointed quality statements (and thus protocols) concerning healthcare, at a national/state level. The imbalance of quality of healthcare from institution to institution arises from a lack of collaboration/teamwork. Interpersonal collaboration at state/national level will mean the establishment of shared quality statements and procedures across hospitals and within hospitals will lead to an overall level and high quality of service, like all healthcare practitioners, at their different levels and institutions, agree on and know the level of quality expected of them.
The second benefit of teamwork and collaboration in healthcare is the reduction of costs. The sharing of procedures and resources is a key benefit of teamwork/collaboration. For instance, having a system that can share patient data between different hospitals means that there will be no costs incurred from printing/sending the records via the post office. Additionally, healthcare institutions and insurance/other billing agents can come up with healthcare schemes that are affordable for different target populations. This paper affirms that such a strategy makes quality healthcare an achievable life goal.
Increased teamwork and collaboration increases positive patient outcome. Breakdown in communication and other factors that foster teamwork/collaboration within a healthcare institution result in increased errors/mishandling of patients (Intra-Health Librarian, 2018). Being that any healthcare institution is composed of departments that must help each handle than 'hand over' patients to each other, lack of communication hence teamwork, will lead to erroneous handing over of patients. For instance, if a triage nurse does not communicate blood pressure, weight and other basic information about a patient effectively to a physician, it may lead to misdiagnosis of a patient. Alternatively, if a laboratory technician does not explain the results/findings of a text clearly to a specialist, it may also lead to the misdiagnosis of a patient. Currently, as studies by Bhatt & Swick (2017) established, the annual number of deaths occurring from medical errors in the United States is approximately 200,000 deaths. The study additionally noted that the majority of these errors occur among complex cases and high-risk inpatients. Additionally, the study investigated the effect of including a pharmacist during rounds in the ICU and established that there was a two-thirds reduction in the number of potential adverse drug events.
There is a need to establish collaborative means of handling/handing over patients, based on clear, concise, and timely information interchange. The effective teamwork and good working relationships achieved from good communication practices can reduce errors and simultaneously improve outcomes. This relationship of communication to quality and safety occurs in several Institute of Medicine (IOM, 2013) reports. With the efficient transfer of essential information, teamwork and collaboration thus mitigate some of the risks associated with the patient transition.
The healthcare sector in the world is generally moving towards a patient-centered approach to the practice of delivering healthcare services. This approach is unachievable without effective Interprofessional collaboration (IntraHealth Librarian, 2018). Patient-centered care, as IntraHealth Librarian (2018) defines, is healthcare that is both responsive and respectful to patient needs, preferences, and values. This approach supersedes the traditional physician-centered approach in which the physician made all clinical decisions, and the patient's preferences were never considered. The patient-centered approach works best where the healthcare professionals involved in offering services to patients already have a strong collaborative ethos, and professional collaboration is at the core of their service delivery. This paper affirms that with collaboration in place, each team member will focus on the needs of the patient as opposed to the individual contributions of each professional. This situation does not mean that professional contributions are negated; rather, they are blended with feedback from the patient, to arrive at an all-inclusive treatment mechanism. This approach, created by teamwork between medical practitioners, is key to the overall success of the practitioners involved as well as meeting patient outcomes.
Better teamwork and collaboration in healthcare provision results in both patient and healthcare professional satisfaction. A study by (Vega & Bernard, 2017) established that patients that underwent collaborative care were more satisfied with the care they receive. The study verified this by including psychologists to the patient treatment processes of both in and outpatients. In addition to reporting increased satisfaction with the care provided, the study established that the clinics involved experienced improved ratings of mental health symptoms. Patients involved in the study additionally reported increased confidence in the care they were receiving. These findings support this paper's affirmation that teamwork/collaboration leads to better patient satisfaction.
It is clear that when patients feel satisfied with the level of care they receive, the healthcare professionals involved in their care experience increased morale and thus discharge their services with more confidence. This paper affirms that collaborative approaches to healthcare have a dual effect, which impacts both the patient and healthcare provider, positively.
Through the core competency of teamwork and collaboration, I can positively impact my clinical practice by fostering more collaboration with other members of staff, including patients in clinical decisions as an approach to inclusive treatment and lastly developing better communication channels and strategies as means of reducing errors during patient handover. Potential barriers to these initiatives include: uncooperative staff/professionals who may impede effective communication, bureaucracy which wears down both patients and medics as they seek to move from one stage of treatment to another, patients who are unwilling to cooperate with medics in their treatment or have given up on treatment and lastly institutional rules and regulations that impede rather than foster collaboration in the workplace.
Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2003). The Institute of Medicine Report: Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality. American Association of Colleges of Nursing, University of Florida College of Nursing, U.S.A.
World Health Organization. (2013). "Interprofessional collaborative practice in primary health care: nursing and midwifery perspectives: six case studies." Human Resources for Health Observer, U.S.A.
Vega, C. P & Benard, A. (2017). Interprofessional Collaboration to Improve Health Care: An Introduction. Accessed from https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/857823 on 10th October 2019.
Bhatt, D.O., & Maureen, R. N. (2017). Focusing on Teamwork and Communication to Improve Patient Safety accessed from https://www.aha.org/news/blog/2017-03-15-focusing-teamwork-and-communication-improve-patient-safety on 10th October 2019.
IntraHealth Librarian (July 10th, 2018), Why is Teamwork in Health Care Important? Accessed from https://www.hrhresourcecenter.org/HRH_Info_Teamwork.html on 10th October 2019.
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