Interprofessional healthcare takes center stage at universities, academic institutions

Interprofessional healthcare is more than a buzzword or a trend. The team-based approach is now a guiding principle at academic and healthcare training organizations and patient-centered medical home models, and what's more, it's the way of the future, according to Bruce Gould, M.D., associate dean for primary care at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and director of the Connecticut Area Health Education Center.

The result: healthcare professional graduates who are prepared to practice in a collaborative environment and better care for patients.

The school began offering interprofessional training long before it took hold in the healthcare industry, Gould told UConn Today. Unlike the traditional, physician-led healthcare model, interprofessional healthcare promotes care coordination by having a team of healthcare providers work together on a patient's treatment plan. Those providers can include basically anyone who has expertise to contribute to the patient's care, including physicians, nurses, pharmacy, physical therapy and social workers.

The model is like a rubber band, Cynthia Booth Lord, director of Quinnipiac University's Physician Assistant program, told the publication. Different health professionals take the lead at different points of a patient's treatment, "stretching the rubber band in different directions," according to the article.

"It's not about the initials after your name. It's about what you have to bring to the table at a particular moment," Lord said. "This doesn't happen naturally. People are very territorial--especially high-achieving medical professionals."

Following an Institute of Medicine 2010 report, "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health," which recommended interprofessional training in the classroom and clinical training opportunities, academic institutions began to embrace the concept. Programs now incorporate it into their teachings so graduates in various healthcare fields have the approach ingrained in their training and are less resistant to collaboration. And it apparently works.

"I have learned what my limitations are and when I need to call in another health professional, something many doctors never learn," William Whalen, a third-year UConn medical student, said in the article. "You learn how to communicate professionally. That's a great tool to have in your toolbox."

Interprofessional education is essential for the future of healthcare, Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, told the Huntington News.

"Students have indicated that the exercises helped them realize the importance of teamwork in the delivery of patient care, helped them recognize everyone has an important part in the care of the patient and that not any one person can do everything," he said.

And patients are reaping the benefits of the education and training, JoAnne M. Saxe, a health sciences clinical professor and co-director of the Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Master's Specialty at the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing, told Medscape.

She points to a program at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where teams of nurse practitioner students and medical residents learn team-based care by providing primary care to veterans in patient-aligned teams. The team includes the nurse practitioner student, two medical residents, a registered nurse, a licensed vocational nurse and a medical clerk. The student stays on top of the patient's care while medical residents are on rotation at the hospital, she explained in the article.

"The goal is to make sure that no one drops the ball, delays are minimized and the patient has ready access to care." Saxe told Medscape.

To learn more:
- here's the UConn Today article
- read the Huntington News piece
- check out the Medscape article