Multidisciplinary collaboration can significantly affect patients and medical professionals and greatly determines the success of the treatment. Cooperation competency can lead to beneficial results like increased patient safety and engagement or negative consequences such as medical errors (Dudley et al., 2018). Thus, interdisciplinary collaboration in pediatric primary care plays an important role and can act as a facilitator to patient treatment or a reason for poor treatment results.
Multidisciplinary Collaboration as A Facilitator of Improved Patient Outcomes
When examining how multidisciplinary collaboration can enhance the quality of medical services, growth in a patient-doctor relationship can be considered the primary one. For instance, Ma et al. (2018) defined the main benefits of cooperation as a heightened quality of healthcare benefits, patient engagement, and safety. In addition, better communication can improve the education of patients and their families, which is an influential factor in pediatric therapy. This change includes “information seeking and effective delivery of information, patient involvement in decision-making, and patient participation in self-care” (Morley & Cashell, 2017, p. 209). Among other benefits, patients also receive efficient decisions in regards to their diagnosis and perceive their care as more effective.
Lack of Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Poor Patient Outcomes
On the other hand, when medical staff displays a lack of communicational competency, it can lead to poor patient outcomes. When a patient is treated with no apparent communication between departments, the chance for patient education is low (Ma et al., 2018). Researchers have identified a rise of medical errors when the medical staff is not “trained to work safely, cooperatively, and in a coordinated way to avoid gaps in quality assurance measures” (Dudley et al., 2018, p. 243). Therefore, efficient communication practices between pediatric primary care physicians can be considered not a preferred method, but a necessary measure to ensure the minimal probability of medical errors.
Barriers to Multidisciplinary Collaboration
Structural, psychological, and educational determinants have been identified as barriers to successful interdisciplinary communication. Firstly, as per structural barriers, they can be defined as aspects of the physical environment that can disturb successful communication (Morley & Cashell, 2017). They include but are not limited to “physical spaces, temporal arrangements, schedules, processes, organized activities, and communication tools that may either encourage or discourage effective team collaboration” (Morley & Cashell, 2017, p. 212). Managemental factors like different schedules or physical distance between departments can prevent groups from effective teamwork.
The second barrier to cooperation involves negative psychological determinant and lack of motivation. This category includes the desire to cooperate, the safety of the environment, members’ interpersonal relations, and respect (Morley & Cashell, 2017). All these psychological factors play a role in successful collaboration; if one of the components is missing, people are less likely to be willing to participate. Thus, lack of incentive and internal motivation leads to worse external outcomes in relationships, cooperation, and patient results.
The third barrier to participation is a deficiency of interpersonal education. As Ma et al. (2018) noted, “lack of interpersonal education has been identified as a significant barrier to interdisciplinary collaboration” (p. 5). Two main difficulties are faced when experiencing this barrier: lack of interpersonal skills and misunderstanding of the roles within the team. Firstly, the ability to resolve conflicts, form meaningful connections, and negotiate are essential parts of cooperation often overseen by the medical personnel. Secondly, the abilities to detect, set, and prioritize the group’s goals rather than individual ones are scarce. Dudley et al. (2018) pointed out that this barrier often “prevents a shared understanding of patients’ needs and goals of care” (p. 244). Both parts of interdisciplinary communication substitute an educational competency within the medical collaboration, and missing this integral part of teamwork participation can be a critical obstacle to positive patient outcomes.
Professional Collaboration Facilitators in Pediatric Primary Care
The first measure that can be taken to improve professional cooperation is the loop of communication. Dudley et al. (2018) stressed the importance of efficient ways to communicate, including face-to-face interactions between the healthcare staff, collaborative attendance of patients’ appointments, utilization of emails, secure messaging platforms, and electronic health record systems (p. 245). Using available technology to enhance communication is the first step to collaboration.
In addition to establishing channels of communication, clarification of roles is another effective method to improve cooperation. When a whole team works on one patient’s case, it is easy to lose track of the individual responsibilities and tasks (Dudley et al., 2018). Thus, a more defined framework of roles is needed for better cooperation with patients and the healthcare team.
In addition, primary pediatric care providers need to increase their awareness of the referral processes and specialized care providers’ tasks to overcome the barrier of education. Ma et al. (2018) wrote that organizing workshops and teaching primary pediatric care providers about various referral and collaboration opportunities to promote mutual understanding can be a solution. That way, medical professionals will be aware of cooperation possibilities and will be more likely to utilize them.
Another facilitator of effective collaboration is creating a team environment where every member feels valued and contributes. “In a collaborative team, healthcare professionals should share responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving to formulate and accomplish care plans for patients” (Ma et al., 2018, p. 5). This approach increases the quality of patient outcomes and reinforces the feeling of being a valued contributor among team members.
Lastly, to compensate for the current lack of interpersonal competencies, appropriate training should be provided. Interprofessional education should be freely available and encouraged to equip collaborators with the knowledge and practical skills to conduct teamwork activities like negotiations, conflict resolution, etc. (Ma et al., 2018). With an improved understanding of interpersonal dynamics, the cooperation will be handled more professionally.
Encouraging Collaboration: Nurses’ Perspective
Nurse practitioners can support collaboration among patients, family, caregivers, and healthcare professionals by developing and actively utilizing interpersonal relations competence in everyday practice. Lack of knowledge on that topic and corresponding skills have been identified as some of the barriers to collaboration (Ma et al., 2018; Morley & Cashell, 2017). Overcoming this obstacle will create a welcoming atmosphere that will spur teamwork.
In addition, they can help to create a welcoming environment that encourages participation. Many healthcare units and patients feel disconnected from the collaborative process (Morley & Cashell, 2017). Thus, updating patients and healthcare providers on the progress and the next steps, as well as encouraging active participation in decision making among family members and reluctant healthcare providers can facilitate more active teamwork. Furthermore, as Dudley et al. (2018) noted, “maintaining long-term relationships with patients was reported by PCPs as important to coordinate care” (p. 245). Consequently, nurses can maintain long-term relationships with patients by continually updating their information and reaching out to their families to form long-lasting bonds that will make a patient’s treatment more consistent.
To sum up, interdisciplinary collaboration is often a determinant of successful patient outcomes in pediatric primary care. Lack of communication can lead to medical errors and failure to help the patient. Multiple psychological, physical, and educational barriers exist to stop healthcare providers from efficient teamwork. Nonetheless, facilitators of interdisciplinary cooperation need to be implemented in pediatric primary care to overcome the aforementioned barriers. Nurse practitioners can act as change-makers and create a suitable environment for collaboration.
Dudley, N., Ritchie, C. S., Rehm, R. S., Chapman, S. A., & Wallhagen, M. I. (2018). Facilitators and barriers to interdisciplinary communication between providers in primary care and palliative care. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 22(3), 243-249.
Ma, C., Park, S. H., & Shang, J. (2018). Inter- and intra-disciplinary collaboration and patient safety outcomes in U.S. acute care hospital units: A cross-sectional study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 85(1), 1–6.
Morley, L., & Cashell, A. (2017). Collaboration in health care. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, 48(2), 207–216.