Healthcare success requires new type of team-building

In spite of widespread efforts to break down barriers to communication and collaboration in healthcare delivery, many hospitals and other healthcare institutions are still organized into so-called "silos" according to their clinical specialties and communicate poorly with other institutions.

But healthcare providers must rethink the way they build and organize teams in order to foster collaboration and multidisciplinary approaches to complex problems, according to an article published this week in the Harvard Business Review.

"The solution to these problems is to shift focus from the structure to the activities of teamwork--what I call teaming,'" wrote Amy C. Edmondson, Ph.D. of Harvard Business School. "Teaming involves fluid, collaborative, interdependent work across shifting projects and with a shifting mix of partners, often across organizational boundaries."

Edmondson said that a patient can interact with up to 60 caregivers in an average hospital day. Something as simple as a CT scan can require the coordination of up to six different hospital departments. As such, healthcare institutions are not constructed to serve the needs of patients and give them the best care.

She advised healthcare teams to frame their work as a highly collaborative and complex process to get care providers thinking in terms of interdependency. Then, she said, the work environment must be a "safe" space for workers to pose questions, raise issues and feel a sense of ownership of their tasks.

Furthermore, she said, healthcare leaders must build communication and decision-making infrastructures that foster departmental interaction and teamwork.

Her ideas dovetail into suggestions published in a Med City News article earlier this year which emphasized 7 qualities of successful, high-functioning teams: Shared goals, clear roles and responsibilities, mutual trust, reliable execution of the game plan, ability to adapt quickly, individualized coaching and continuous learning. 

Non-physician partners are an integral part of successful healthcare team building and can help foster interdepartmental communication and "merging complimentary skills" to eliminate redundancies, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. 

To learn more:
- read the HBR article