Promoting teamwork in healthcare promises to advance the quality, efficiency, and safety of care. Healthcare is a multidisciplinary vocation, and the emerging team-oriented approach reflects a natural response to increasingly complex industry conditions. Teamwork is expected to be an answer to a myriad of healthcare problems, bestowing benefits to administration, workflows, and patients.
As healthcare becomes more integrated, specialized, and personalized, a higher degree of collaboration will become necessary to realize the full potential of these trends. Teamwork can promote the application of a fuller scope of specialized knowledge to solve more medical and healthcare industry challenges, leveraging entire teams to care for individual patients, enhance emergency and disaster readiness, and boost organizational initiatives.
Teamwork’s Impact on Patients
Talented clinicians have the skill to treat illness, but it takes an organizational commitment and a group of dedicated professionals to deliver a quality patient experience. Nurses, physicians, and non-clinical staff can all play a role in addressing patient concerns, answering questions, managing medications, and encouraging patient follow-up. Being supported and heard are important factors in patient satisfaction. This relationship is cyclical, with satisfaction contributing to higher levels of treatment engagement. Increasing rates of patient condition co-morbidity require a higher spectrum of care than can be provided by single practitioners. Teamwork is also linked to reduced costs, potentially delivering treatment for less.
Collaborative and integrated care promises to overcome the weaknesses of conventional care models that fail to address underlying causes and contributing factors to health conditions. Optimal patient outcomes will be best facilitated by a multidisciplinary team approach to care that uses a more holistic and comprehensive model to promote long-term well-being. Interdisciplinary teams are more equipped to deal with patient comorbidities, including those involving both mental and physical health. Perhaps most consequently, teamwork is expected to improve medical error rates and reduce treatment delays by removing barriers to communication.
Teamwork’s Impact on Clinicians
Reduced Medical Mistakes
Research shows that teamwork greatly enhances diagnostic and record-keeping accuracy, especially when relied on to avoid individual team-member multitasking—a common factor for medical error. For instance, medical scribes and technologies like EHRs can ensure practitioners remain focused at the times when gathering complete data and delivering treatment with precision matters most. Teams with defined and rehearsed roles will also help coordinate better crisis responses.
Reduced Stress and Burnout
Practitioner burnout is a serious problem in healthcare, exacerbating physician shortages and causing those who stay in the field to be more prone to mistakes due to increased stress. Better teamwork has the potential to ease alarmingly high burnout rates and help practitioners rediscover their enthusiasm for care. By sharing the burdens of care and administration, creating peer support systems, and allowing each team member to focus on their strong suits, clinicians can feel more focused and supported.
Shared responsibility allows practitioners to do less—but also more. Continuing medical education helps both individuals and teams advance their skills, while better teamwork gives team members opportunities to apply new information in a way that is coordinated and accountable. Teamwork and professional development will be highly interlinked, as clinicians systematize teamwork within their organizations. Basic principles of teamwork will need to be adapted for each practice as the need for a surgical team are much different from primary care.
Teamwork’s Impact On Healthcare Organizations
Organizations as a whole benefit from improved patient outcomes which can have a significant impact on bottom lines. Value-based care models are shifting focus from fee-for-service models that promote highly siloed care and healthcare waste due to a lack of communication. But perhaps the biggest benefit of teamwork is patient safety. Coordinated care creates layers of oversight and quality control that limit errors and avoid environments where clinicians are overworked. Evidence shows that already, teamwork models are reducing unexpected hospital admissions.
Teamwork solves both the direct and indirect causes of practitioner error and patient harm. It can facilitate the transfer of information between teams (such as Emergency to ICU) or between individual team members to ensure accurate and timely care.
Professional Development and Hiring
Teamwork adds a new dimension to the hiring and recruiting process. Healthcare organization HR departments will need to come up with systems to identify team players who support their organizational mission—and those who don’t.
Teamwork is also facilitating new perspectives on healthcare workforce development, professional development, and continuing medical education. While communication is a matter of effort and process it is also a skill, particularly in regards to the use of technology and communication between multidisciplinary teams. Inter-organizational and intra-organizational communication can be supported through professional development and CME programs that explore different models of teamwork and communication. On the horizon are efforts to expand the lessons learned from grouped and highly-responsive medical teams such as trauma and emergency medicine to nonaction care teams such as primary care and family medicine.