February 15, 2015
Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, FAAN
American Nurse Today
I am writing in response to the article entitled “Creating high performance interprofessional teams” by Terry Eggenberger, Kathryn Keller, and Rose Sherman, published in volume 9, issue 11 of American Nurse Today. As noted by the authors, interprofessional teams are an integral part of the collaborative nature of healthcare where many disciplines must work together for the benefit of the patient. We see this every day in the intensive care unit in which I work. But with schedules varying, healthcare teams have different professionals at different times and the members of the team within each profession will vary from day to day. This variation of the team members affects the ability of the team to function and allows for miscommunication between and within the professions. This miscommunication may contribute to medical errors, jeopardize patient safety and affect outcomes as goals may not be communicated effectively. Along with the emphasis on communication between the professions, there must a standard means by which accurate and precise communication within the individual professions can take place in order to attain team goals.
In an article entitled “How communication complicates the patient safety movement” published in May/June of 2006 in Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare, M.S. Woods notes a study, undertaken by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which shows that communication breakdown was identified as the cause of 60% of 2034 medical errors. Some of these errors could be avoided if a more effective means of intraprofessional (within the same profession), as well as interprofessional communication is utilized. With healthcare reform, facilities and providers have been mandated to change over to Electronic Medical Records (EMR). S. Rowlands and J. Callen found that many professionals saw an EMR as a more precise mechanism for facilitating communications within the profession in a study entitled “A qualitative analysis of communication between members of a hospital-based multidisciplinary lung cancer team” published in the January, 2013 edition of European Journal of Cancer Care. The EMR takes the place of the written or scribbled hand-off report professionals have used which may contain inaccuracies and may not convey the whole picture needed to provide consistent, goal-driven care.
In conclusion, the authors provide good insight on how to create an effective, multi-professional healthcare team and promote healthy communication between team members. The goals of each of the professions within the team need to be communicated to oncoming staff using electronic records to allow for more precise communication. By reducing miscommunication between professionals, medical errors can be reduced or avoided all together and patients will have more confidence in the team as they notice the common goals that do not change regardless of which professional is assuming care for that day. In the healthcare system as it exists today, caring for patients involves many professions all working together for the common goal of safe, efficient patient care.
Alan B. Welfare