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Developing an Interprofessional Learning Strategy: Fostering Collaborative Care

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

In today's rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, where patient needs have become increasingly complex, the significance of multidisciplinary teams in delivering comprehensive care has never been more apparent. These teams consistently demonstrate superior outcomes, higher patient satisfaction, and reduced costs. However, achieving successful coordination and mutual respect among healthcare professionals can be a formidable challenge. Siloed training, entrenched professional cultures, and resistance to change often hinder collaborative efforts. This is where interprofessional education (IPE) plays a crucial role. By fostering a collaborative learning environment where healthcare professionals from various disciplines can learn from one another, IPE breaks down these barriers and enhances teamwork. It fosters students' professional identities and respect for diverse healthcare roles, promoting effective communication and the development of high-functioning care teams.

The recent shift in control over clinical education reflects a changing landscape in which health systems now significantly influence learners. While interprofessional learning has gained recognition and integration in Undergraduate Medical Education (UME), its application in Graduate Medical Education (GME) has not received the same level of emphasis. Residents and fellows, who actively engage with various clinical teams during their rotations, possess the potential to drive collaboration and unity within healthcare organizations. This presents a unique opportunity for health systems to leverage their influence to restructure clinical teams within the GME setting.

Recognizing the importance of successful interprofessional learning outcomes, Germane Solutions has been working closely with organizations to develop effective learner strategies, implement tracking processes, and establish communication channels with educational institutions. Through our partnerships, we have identified key challenges that hinder the success of interprofessional learning initiatives. One pressing challenge is the lack of a clear understanding of the exact number of learners within hospitals and health systems at any given time. Additionally, many organizations struggle to define a comprehensive strategy for these learners and fail to establish strategic relationships with the educational institutions that send them. Addressing these critical components is essential to unlocking the full potential of interprofessional learning.

Germane Solutions is excited to explore the development of an interprofessional learning strategy, highlighting the key elements required to foster high-functioning and collaborative care teams.


Assessing Learner Availability and Resources: To ensure the successful integration of learners within the organization, it is crucial to follow a systematic approach. Begin by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the current organization, rotation, and interactions of learners throughout the system. Auditing the availability of learners provides insights into the existing structure and potential areas for improvement, including factors such as patient volume, unit capacity, and discipline-specific requirements. These assessments are essential for feasibility evaluations when incorporating learners. They ensure effective planning that accommodates their skill level, learning needs, and the specific capacity and constraints of each clinical unit. It is crucial to strike a balance between facilitating meaningful learning experiences and ensuring optimal care delivery to guide future changes.


Visioning:

The development of a comprehensive vision is important to ensure that the organization realizes the key benefits of fostering collaboration and optimizing clinical and educational value. By effectively leveraging economies of scale, IPE enables training a larger volume of learners with a more real-life, team-based approach. When there is a clear vision in place, interprofessional learning can be seamlessly and strategically integrated into healthcare education and practice.

Moreover, the process of visioning also presents the opportunity to identify and capitalize on value-add prospects. Interprofessional business plans yield returns on investment by improving patient care and team experience, as well as shortening hospital stays, though this is only the beginning. Creating pipelines of learners who pursue further education at hospitals with clinical programs builds and retains the workforce. This is particularly beneficial to institutions facing shortages across disciplines and rising costs associated with using travelers and staffing agencies. Implementing retention-focused pathways not only encourages learners to stay in the system but also enhances collaboration and reduces costs like recruitment and onboarding expenses.

Centralization of Learners:

Germane Solutions provides a comprehensive and streamlined approach to learner management, addressing the challenges of disjointed training structures. Our core strategy involves consolidating administrative mechanisms for education into a single, user-friendly platform for all learners entering the healthcare system. We have found that this first step in implementation lays a solid foundation for future changes. A centralized platform simplifies processes such as credentialing, orientation, annual training, and sim lab activities. By eliminating redundancies and silos across specialties, learner types, and locations, we optimize the value of clinical and educational experiences for residents, fellows, students, and administration, while promoting a cohesive approach to the organization’s academic mission.

Creating a Culture of Collaboration:

To achieve "systemness" in interprofessional education, a collective culture must be fostered across the entire health system, avoiding separate cultures at individual sites. A strong cultural foundation serves as the backbone for almost any successful clinical transformation initiative. Existing traditions and hierarchies may diminish enthusiasm for system change, resulting in confusion, low engagement, and a lack of awareness about specific professional expertise. These factors impede the inclusion of interprofessional providers in teaching, hinder organizational progress, and drive top talent away.

Effective integration of interprofessional interactions is achieved through a structured environment and teaching-focused culture. Qualities essential for IPE are already exemplified in the ICU, with close collaboration, formal/informal trainee interactions, and enhanced teamwork due to critical illness urgency. Trust and respect exist among all team members, including caregivers, pharmacists, and doctors. Expanding this successful ICU model throughout the hospital is crucial to promoting collaboration among all healthcare professionals. Simulation learning games are also promising tools for reinforcing interprofessional socialization and learning concepts.


At Germane Solutions, we go beyond traditional solutions to empower organizations in navigating the complexities of tomorrow's healthcare system and driving transformative change. As the recognition of multidisciplinary teams' significance in delivering comprehensive care grows and the pressing issues of rural/urban care disparities and physician shortages persist, the future of patient care hangs in the balance. It is clear that the development of interprofessional learning strategies is the key to shaping this future. Institutions must prioritize the organized utilization of clinical training space and establish a well-defined plan for effectively managing large numbers of learners. By doing so, they can foster an environment that not only promotes collaboration, lower turnover rates, and patient-centered care but also breaks away from hierarchical dynamics. The integration of interprofessional education into an organization's strategic vision can create a sustainable ecosystem that benefits individuals and communities worldwide.

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