Physician teamwork may save patient lives, study finds

care team

Teamwork may be the key to saving the life of a surgical patient, a new study suggests.

The research, which was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found that heart patients’ chance of survival increased when a team of doctors worked as unit for their care. The researchers, based at the University of Michigan, found that health systems with higher levels of teamwork had far lower 60-day readmissions, emergency department visits and mortality rates.

The team studied data on 251,000 older Americans and mapped their interactions with the 466,000 doctors that provided their surgical care to examine the efficacy of strong “social networks” between doctors. The researchers modeled teamwork using Medicare data showing which doctors had treated the same patients 30 days before and 60 days after surgery, and found a 25 percent increase in teamwork was connected to 17 fewer readmissions per 1,000 patients.

"Surgical care is complex, involving multiple providers dispersed across locations over time," John Hollingsworth, M.D., lead author and a urologist at UM, said in an announcement of the study results. "Our findings show that physician teamwork influences patient outcomes, even more than some measures of comorbid illness."

Care coordination efforts have been proven to effectively improve patient outcomes, but many patients do not reap the benefits, FierceHealthcare has previously reported. A recent study from  Neilsen Strategic Health Perspectives and the Council of Accountable Physician Practices found that only about half of patients experience the positives of their doctors and providers sharing care information.