The Importance of Collaboration in the Medical Community: Strengthening Patient Care

Medical Community comprises of Doctors (Primary care physicians and specialists), Nurses, Medical and Surgical Technicians, pathologists, laboratory staff, psychologists, nutritionists, and pharmacologists to name a few. All healthcare professionals work alongside each other in harmony to provide patient care. Healthcare and medicine have evolved through the years to become a complex and intricate field that needs the collaboration of all these healthcare professionals.

Constituents of the medical community are classified both vertically and horizontally. Within each department, healthcare professionals have different roles and these roles together form a hierarchical structure that ensures patient care and satisfaction from start to finish. For example, a General Physician or a registered nurse is usually the first point of contact for a patient, who assess the signs and symptoms and advise laboratory testing or a referral to a specialist. In the laboratory, technicians and pathologists work together to provide quick and efficient reports that can aid healthcare providers in making swift diagnoses.

The medical community can be categorized horizontally into different departments or fields of medical sciences such as medical specialists, psychologists, nutritionists, and physiotherapists. These professionals work together in providing all aspects of medical care to a patient in need. For example, a person of different abilities needs a medical specialist for diseases such as gastrointestinal problems, a psychologist for therapy and psychological support, and a nutritionist to overcome the dietary challenges associated with a different lifestyle. These examples make it clear that collaboration among the different hierarchies and departments of healthcare is vital in the maintenance of an ideal healthcare system.

Collaboration in the medical community is necessary based on the concept of healthcare. Today, healthcare is a complex conglomerate of physical, psychological, and spiritual health. This means that to be healthy, an individual needs to be right in the mind, in the body, and in the soul. Only then he or she can enjoy perfect health and can become a successful member of society. As these, all systems combine to make a healthy individual so do different personnel working in the different areas of healthcare and medicine who need to come together and collaborate to make a perfect healthcare system.

Several organizations and associations are aiming to improve collaboration and foster relationships among healthcare providers. American Medical Association (AMA) and American Nurses Association (ANA) are the two most prominent organizations leading this cause. These two associations took a joint initiative to further the collaboration between physicians and nurses and formed the National Joint Practice Commission (NJPC) in 19711. Other specialty-specific associations further enhance communication and build relationships among the healthcare providers associated with specific specialties.

This article will explain how collaboration in the medical community can strengthen patient care by indulging in an evidence-based discussion on the topic.

What is collaboration and how does it work?

Collaboration in health care is defined as health care professionals assuming complementary roles and cooperatively working together, sharing responsibility for problem-solving and making decisions to formulate and carry out plans for patient care1.

Collaboration helps problem-solving, research and development, and the evolution of legal and ethical codes. Working in any medical field can be improved by collaboration. When health professionals communicate with each other and build mutually beneficial relationships to share information and coordinate projects, new strategies, and technologies are developed. Sharing responsibility for problem-solving increases the chances of a breakthrough in the research process. All these outcomes lead to better patient care and satisfaction, forming an ideal healthcare system.

How collaboration has been contributing to the medical field?

In recent years, studies have proved that fostering relationships and building communication pathways brought fruitful outcomes and enhanced the delivery of medical care.

Shortly after its foundation, the National Joint Practice Commission (NJPC) studied four hospitals where the physician-nurses dynamics were changed and special care was given to forming new relationships between both fields. The study proved that Job satisfaction rates among physicians and nurses were improved, patients received better healthcare and left the hospital with a higher level of satisfaction than before, and this collaboration helped bring down the costs of departments under study1.

Another study conducted on the effects of interprofessional collaboration on healthcare outcomes concluded by saying, “The review suggests that practice-based interprofessional care interventions can improve healthcare processes and outcomes, but due to the limitations in terms of the small number of studies, sample sizes, problems with conceptualizing and measuring collaboration, and heterogeneity of interventions and settings, it is difficult to draw generalizable inferences about the key elements of IPC and its effectiveness”2.

Xyrichis A and Ream E, in a study, defined collaboration among healthcare professionals as, “A dynamic process involving two or more health professionals with complementary backgrounds and skills, sharing common health goals and exercising concerted physical and mental effort in assessing, planning, or evaluating patient care. This is accomplished through interdependent collaboration, open communication, and shared decision-making. This in turn generates value-added patient, organizational and staff outcomes”3.

These above-mentioned studies show that collaboration, though less found in the day-to-day workings of healthcare facilities, can prove to be beneficial, not only for the patients but also for the healthcare professionals themselves.

Challenges in Interprofessional Collaboration in Healthcare

The healthcare system is a complex system with multiple hierarchies, departments, and professionals working together to achieve one single objective, efficient patient care. As healthcare setups grow, more and more staff are added, and the dynamics of the healthcare facility change. Physicians are considered to be the backbone of the healthcare system. But in today’s rapidly advancing medical industry, doctors alone cannot guarantee ultimate patient care and satisfaction. From laboratory testing to drug administration and even the maintenance of the revenue cycle, physicians need the assistance of other professionals. Ideally, this assistance should come in response to excellent communication that can help build a strong collaborative relationship.

In many instances, doctors and other key professionals in the healthcare industry fail to demonstrate a mutually beneficial relationship through trust and communication. The perspective on interprofessional collaboration changes as we go up the hierarchy. For example, doctors and nurses present a different perspective on the nature of the relationship between the two professions. Nurses believe that this relationship should be independent where doctors and nurses have complementary roles rather than hierarchical ones.

Cross-sectional studies have demonstrated the challenges of interprofessional collaboration by stating that attitudes toward teamwork and communication are discrepant between physicians and nurses, and between different groups of physicians4.

Another overview mentioned in the study, “Face and Politeness in pharmacist-physician interaction” by Lambert B. L. in 1996 states: “Actions that the pharmacists must routinely perform if they are to practice pharmaceutic care (e.g., correcting, advising, reminding, recommending, reporting) are intrinsically threatening to physicians’ professional identities5.”

A study conducted by Abramson and Mizrahi, tells a similar story regarding the physician-social worker collaboration. A wording from the published study states, “At one end of the continuum, traditional physicians maintain dominance in interactions, have little interest in psychosocial factors, and reluctantly accept social workers’ function of obtaining specific services6.”

Challenges in the development of interprofessional collaboration among healthcare professionals can be summarized down to a lack of resources, lack of time, poor communication channels, fear of loss of professional identity, and absence of training regarding this topic7.

Overcoming these challenges

To promote collaboration, these above-mentioned challenges have to be overcome and the resulting issue be addressed. In cases, where the professional integrity and identity of healthcare providers are at risk of being threatened, dynamic SOPs need to be in place and workplace guidelines should be developed and implemented.

Communication among healthcare professionals is key to developing interprofessional collaboration. There is a need to open further channels of communication among different hierarchical roles of the healthcare system. Studies have shown that there is a serious lack of communication between the physician and the nurse attending the same patient in a healthcare facility. Physicians fail to communicate regarding the needs of the patient and nurses are left with patient charts as the only source of information. By actively encouraging communication between physicians and other healthcare professionals, IPC can be improved.

Interprofessional collaboration needs dedicated time and resources so that healthcare professionals can be trained and educated regarding the development and significance of collaboration. The study conducted by the NJPC mentioned above is a good example in this regard. All four hospitals dedicated funding and resources to this process, which resulted in cutting the costs of different departments down in the end.

In summary, it all comes down to the administrators and stakeholders of the healthcare industry, including physicians, to promote collaboration among the professionals associated with this industry. Resources should be dedicated to promoting collaboration so that the overall efficiency of the system can be improved.

Future Directions and Innovations

With rapid advancements in the healthcare industry, providers have new resources at their hands to promote collaboration. Advancements in digital healthcare provision such as telemedicine, have enabled healthcare professionals to better communicate with each other through technology. Sharing of information has never been easier. The development of software solutions has made it easier for physicians and other professionals to record, compile, store, and share patient data with others in their field. This opens new channels of communication and reduces the burden on human resources while ensuring the means of collaboration among them. Using these modes of communication comes with its own risks of data breach. All healthcare professionals must adhere to the guidelines of the Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Acts (HIPAA) while using these tools.

Online platforms and digital healthcare communities have been developed to promote interprofessional collaboration along with collaboration among healthcare professionals, patients, their attendants, and communities. These platforms enable healthcare professionals, patients, and other people associated with healthcare and medicine to voice their queries and concerns on healthcare issues and get answers in return.

To be a part of our Healthcare Community, visit our community website: Remediciae Community.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can also contribute to the enhancement of collaboration among healthcare professionals. Artificial Intelligence is now capable of data analysis, predictive analytics, risk assessment, diagnosis support, remote monitoring, telemedicine, natural language processing and documentation, and clinical support of healthcare providers. All these capabilities reduce the burden of administrative and clerical tasks associated with healthcare and medicine from human resources which leaves them with more time and stamina for interprofessional collaboration and communication. These can also assist in ensuring safe and efficient communication among healthcare professionals, thus building collaboration and interprofessional relationships.

In lieu of the data provided by studies, and the latest facts and figures gathered, it is imperative that healthcare professionals need focus on developing sound professional relationships and collaborative approaches to the solution of medical problems. It all comes down to the stakeholders as it is their responsibility to promote collaboration among themselves and other professionals to improve the efficiency of the healthcare system.

If you are a healthcare professional working in the US Healthcare System, click here to learn more how we can bring a healthy work-life balance to your life and assist you in ways that you cannot imagine.

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Sources:

  1. Fagin CM. Collaboration between nurses and physicians: no longer a choice. Nurs Health Care. 1992;13(7):354–62. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1575859/
  2. Carole A. Orchard. Persistent isolationist or collaborator? The nurse’s role in interprofessional collaborative practice. Journal of Nursing Management. April, 2010. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2834.2010.01072.x
  3. Xyrichis A, ReamE. Teamwork: a concept analysis. J Adv Nurs 2008;61(2): 232-41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04496.x
  4. Evanoff Bradley, et al. Can We Talk? Priorities for Patient Care Differed Among Health Care Providers. n Advances in Patient Safety: From Research to Implementation. Volumes 1-4. May, 2005. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA433938.pdf
  5. Lambert, B. L. Face and Politeness in Pharmacist-Physician Interaction. Social Science and Medicine. 1996. https://brucelambert.soc.northwestern.edu/journal_art/FacePoliteness.pdf
  6. Abramson, J. S., & Mizrahi, T. (1986). Strategies for enhancing collaboration between social workers and physicians. Social Work in Health Care, 12, 1-21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3603325/
  7. Rawlinson Cloe, et al. An Overview of Reviews on Interprofessional Collaboration in Primary Care: Barriers and Facilitators. International Journal of Integrated Care. June, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8231480/#:~:text=Main%20barriers%20referred%20to%20lack,other%20professionals’%20skills%20and%20contribution.
Dr. Muhammad Hussain
Dr. Muhammad Hussain

MD, Entrepeneur & Administrator. Six years of experience, working in the field of clinical care, medical administration, and healthcare business.

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