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Interprofessional Collaboration in Health Care


Teamwork is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon that is often studied from the perspective of team members’ relationships and their impact on outcomes. The more effectively teams work, the more their members can learn and live within the context of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes (Schmutz, Meier, & Manser, 2019). Teams that have worked together for some time tend to be more effective in their collaboration, which creates a more favorable environment conducive to higher productivity in goal accomplishment. Thus, this study aims to explore the topic of collaboration within teams, with the focus placed on interprofessional dynamics. It is essential to understand what factors can facilitate improved collaboration within interprofessional teams and which ones limit effectiveness and make teams struggle with accomplishing their goals.

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Teamwork and collaboration within interprofessional teams are imperative because such groups consist of various health workers from different backgrounds who unite to work toward delivering high-quality care to those struggling with their health. The research in the area of interprofessional teams has been extensive, and exploring the available studies and organizing them systematically can help reveal both best practices and the main challenges that they endure. While establishing such teams can facilitate collaboration and the sharing of expertise, the lack of understanding on managing the team and creating favorable environments within them can cause risks to patient safety.

Understanding Teamwork

Teamwork is defined as the process of a group of individuals working collectively to achieve common goals and provide high-quality services to the entities that they are serving. Teamwork can enable its participants to have an increased level of emotional security, self-confidence, and the ability to plan and make positive decisions with others (Abbas & Nawaz, 2019). Besides, it helps facilitate a healthy work environment with workable agendas, positive strategies, creative activities, and positive values and strategies (Sanyal & Hisam, 2018). However, in the absence of effective teamwork strategies and concepts, teams risk experiencing occupational failures, disappointments in their accomplishment, lower morale, and lower productivity that threatens the goals and objectives of a team (Zajac et al., 2021). The advantages of teamwork entail the significant growth of productivity in the areas that require solving various tasks effectively and a higher degree of adaptability.

Teamwork helps develop team members’ perspectives and skills through the positive exchange of ideas, opinions, experiences, and viewpoints. The consistent process of exchanging valuable information can be helpful in developing effective services offered by an organization (Sanyal & Hisam, 2018). In the healthcare context, teamwork has become an important health intervention aimed at improving the well-being of patients. Specifically, clinical care is becoming more multi-dimensional and specialized, enabling medical staff to attempt complex health services and learn new methods (Tian et al., 2019). Besides, researchers found that working in teams can reduce the number of medical errors and increase the safety of patients (Rosen et al., 2019).

Importance of Collaboration

Collaboration can occur within any organizational context and structures set in place. In the business sphere, it is most commonly referred to as inter-organizational collaboration, while in the healthcare profession, the term that is used more commonly is an interprofessional collaboration (IPC). Collaboration is important because it enables such processes as sharing, power, interdependency, and partnerships (Schruijer, 2020). It entails a commitment to the definition of mutual goals and relationships alongside a jointly created structure of shared responsibility, mutual authority, and accountability for success (Boutillier et al., 2020). Besides, effective team collaborators are expected to share the resources and rewards that they have.

Collaboration can potentially reduce the self-sufficiency of individuals within environments that call for their increased innovation and flexibility (Boutillier et al., 2020). In healthcare, collaborative efforts have yielded improved healthcare services and outcomes for the individuals and groups served by healthcare teams. It can lead to enhanced efficiency, an increased mix of healthcare skills, and greater levels of professionals’ responsiveness and dedication to innovative and holistic treatment methods (WHO, 2018). According to the study by Schot, Tummers, and Noordegraaf (2020), collaborative efforts in healthcare have resulted in better outcomes in family health, infectious disease prevention, humanitarianism, and responses to either communicable or non-communicable diseases.

Interprofessional Collaboration

Improved collaboration in health care has been considered one of the critical strategies for improving health reform. Working interprofessionally entails establishing integrated perspectives on patient care among workers that have different professional backgrounds (Schot et al., 2020). Understanding interprofessional collaboration is possible by considering the typical setup of a hospital. Several healthcare professionals usually take care of any specific patient, ranging from nurses to pharmacists. For the parties involved to meet their common objectives aimed at improving patient health, the interprofessional collaborators should engage in effective communication, sharing knowledge in real-time, and supporting one another throughout the process of patient care (Laroui, 2021). Working collaboratively implies having smooth and effective relationships and positive behaviors aimed at care improvement (Sevdalis & Brett, 2009). Collaboration in this context has been shown to enhance patient outcomes, ranging from the reduction of preventable adverse drug reactions to decreasing adverse patient outcomes such as morbidity and mortality (Bosch & Mansell, 2015).

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To overcome the challenges that occur throughout the process of patient care, it is essential for interprofessional teams to create positive environments and culture for teamwork to take place. By having such an environment, healthcare professionals from different backgrounds come together to deliver the best patient experience (Hennus et al., 2021). Interprofessional collaboration is expected to improve the overall patient journey, which entails different events and activities that patients have to navigate within the healthcare system, ranging from initial appointments to follow-ups (Reeves et al., 2017). However, despite the primary diagnoses, patients’ conditions and symptoms can change within a matter of days or hours, which calls for the synchronization of efforts of an interprofessional team that brings unique experiences to the table to address healthcare challenges as soon as possible.

Interprofessional teams have also been shown to facilitate access to critical information that may help improve patient outcomes by avoiding medical errors and coming up with the most individual-centered plan of care (Nzelu, Chandraharan, & Pereira, 2018). By engaging in collaboration, healthcare professionals with different levels of expertise will provide valuable insights to facilitate accurate diagnosis and formulate appropriate interventions for the treatment (Rosen et al., 2019). Through the efficient exchange of knowledge and expertise, healthcare professionals within an interprofessional team can define their individual roles and responsibilities and those of their teammates. This can strengthen professionals’ self-confidence and understanding of what they can bring to the team and how they can support their teammates using their expertise. Therefore, interpersonal collaboration within a healthcare context brings significant benefits not only to the quality of patient care but also to the satisfaction and confidence of personnel who are encouraged to share their expertise and opinions regarding appropriate health interventions (Perry, Richter, & Beauvais, 2018).

Causes and Outcomes of Poor Teamwork

The causes of poor teamwork can vary from one setting to another, in turn causing adverse health consequences among patients. According to O’connor et al. (2016), the low quality of collaboration was the most commonly-reported cause of poor teamwork within healthcare teams. For example, even though nurses tend to work together well, O’connor et al. (2016) found evidence of them ‘ganging up’ on interns, who, in turn, reported having to perform tasks in accordance with nurses’ wishes. Thus, instead of meeting the clinically necessary needs of patients, interns perform duties that nurses dictate to them. Therefore, in such an environment, team members are likely to develop hostility toward one another, limiting collaboration and lowering care quality.

Besides the poor quality of collaboration, inadequate teamwork can also be a result of bad leadership, which is often synonymous with the lack of patient-oriented care. Because of this, it is imperative for interprofessional teams to choose leaders who will define and uphold high standards of patient care and enable the team to focus on specific objectives related to patient care (O’connor et al., 2016). Ineffective leadership can result in a lack of patient focus, with team members being distracted from caring for patients to dealing with interpersonal issues or unnecessary tasks.

In the complex healthcare environment characterized by various procedures, poor teamwork is at the center of many issues. As suggested in the report prepared by the Royal College of Surgeons (2019), poor teamwork between team members was often the leading factor when rare patient complications took place in surgical practice. In the study, one hundred surgical reviews from 2010 to 2019 identified poor teamwork as an issue causing surgery unit issues in 76% of cases (Royal College of Surgeons, 2019). Issues in teamwork usually occur because team members do not meet regularly to discuss their practice and reflect on it, provide recommendations based on their experience, or develop strategies to prevent the issues from occurring in the future. The example of the lack of interprofessional teamwork within surgical teams shows that effective healthcare cannot exist in isolation from collaboration. If the teamwork is at a low level, service-user safety can be at risk.

Within the practice of diagnostic therapy, which is connected to future practice, being a member of an interprofessional team entails avoiding complacency end exercising assertiveness. This is so because the practice relies significantly on human factors and the expertise of a professional to conduct the correct screenings necessary for managing patient interventions (Waterson & Catchpole, 2016). For example, if a diagnostic radiographer complies with the requirements of nurses every time, they risk making mistakes that are detrimental to patient safety. Because of this, it is important to be a collaborator but to stand one’s ground when it comes to implementing screenings and formulating diagnoses.

Lack of Collaboration and Patient Safety

The collaboration inherent in interprofessional teams has the potential benefit of facilitating a joint effort of different disciplines to address patients’ healthcare problems. As Busari, Moll, and Duits (2017) suggested collaboration within such teams entails the standardization of procedures, the maintenance and sharing of knowledge and communication based on professional respect. When teams do not meet the above-mentioned requirements, they may put patient safety at risk (Carayon et al., 2014). Specifically, when team procedures are not being conducted or maintained during professional collaboration, team members may be challenged by the possibility of losing their domain-related knowledge (Carayon, 2010). From the nursing perspective, the lack of clarity in patients’ intervention plans is a significant obstacle to effectiveness (Farokhzadian, Nayeri, & Borhani, 2018). For instance, when the team cannot uphold specific agreements with other departments, such as radiology and labs, the collaboration can be hindered. Consequently, this can lead to a higher risk of medical errors, limited efficiency, loss of motivation, as well as dissatisfaction resulting from subpar patient care.

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The insufficient sharing of healthcare knowledge and relevant patient data between the participants of interprofessional teams leads to an unclear treatment approach (Busari et al., 2017). Besides, the lack of collaboration enables the development or hierarchical structure of professional relationships, which means that high-ranked professionals will lead the process despite them not having the necessary levels of expertise. Because of this, the quality of care suffers, putting patients’ health at risk (Hennus et al., 2021). The suboptimal patient care stemming from the lack of collaboration within interprofessional teams does not allow for team members’ knowledge and expertise to be widely available (Cullati et al., 2019). High turnover of personnel and the increased likelihood of errors in turnover are the expected consequences of low-quality care (Willard-Grace et al., 2019).

Within the practice of diagnostic therapy, it is imperative to maintain high levels of respect within the interprofessional team because its lack can lead to lower collaboration (Karam et al., 2018). The expertise provided by diagnostic radiographers is essential to treatment success. It is important that other team members, such as nurses, do not overlook the suggestions and collaborate with the professionals to formulate patient interventions (Rogers, 2018). In the absence of collaboration, treatment errors are more likely, which risks patients’ safety and well-being. To avoid errors, multidisciplinary teams must have a clear definition of roles and allow for sharing the extensive and diverse experiences of team members due to their importance in formulating effective intervention methods.


To conclude, interprofessional collaboration is the cornerstone of high-quality patient care when it is implemented correctly. The future practice in such a team entails sharing diverse opinions, perspectives, and attitudes to patient care regardless of seniority but rather based on past experiences and expertise. It is essential to be respectful of the diverse views that interprofessional teams bring to the table and be open to learning processes that could help improve care quality. In a positive environment where the opinions of professionals with different levels of expertise are accepted and valued, it is possible to develop innovative and effective interventions that put patient safety first. Collaboration within interprofessional teams can bring invaluable knowledge and experience that can be extensively used in future practice.


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