Interdepartmental Clinical Care Teams: Germinating in Colleges

Could the future of interdepartmental clinical care teams be germinating in colleges around the U.S.?

As hospitals and other healthcare organizations continue to strive for the “triple aim” of improved population health, lower costs and improved patient experiences, many organizations are turning to interdepartmental care as one solution.

But implementing team-based care is a challenge. Ongoing silos. Old clinical and personal habits. Turf wars. These roadblocks and others often prevent fast adoption.

Where healthcare sees roadblocks, though, colleges (including medical schools) see opportunity and are now implementing semester-long programs specifically designed to teach clinical teamwork skills and provide an atmosphere where future providers learn about the different roles each profession plays on the team.

Perhaps the best example is at the University of Michigan, where the course – Team-Based Clinical Decision Making (TBCM) enrolls students in dentistry, pharmacy, social work, medicine and nursing. In fact, it’s a required course for all third year Doctor of Pharmacy and Doctor of Dental Surgery students.

To build teamwork skills and awareness, each student is assigned to groups of six to eight people which have all four disciplines represented. Using exercises, case studies, discussion and both self and group-evaluation, the students work towards competency in understanding different roles and responsibilities and working effectively as diverse teams.

What has been the outcome? Student feedback has been positive and has focused on new insights. “I don’t need to be an expert in all areas,” one student remarked. “I need to be an expert in my field and understand how to work with other disciplines on the team.”

The course has also shown students the downside to teamwork as well as some teams noticed a decrease in team functioning over time, often the result of a disengaged or overpowering team member.

As more younger professionals enter the clinical environment, the drive towards interdepartmental teams may be a natural extension of what they have already learned in school, resulting in an acceleration of adoption in healthcare communities across the U.S.