Collaboration in health care can remarkably improve patient outcomes and the delivery of care. Many studies have been conducted on the topic, and much evidence has been obtained from practitioners that demonstrate the positive effects of collaborative behaviors not only among health care providers but also among providers, patients, and patients’ families. To address the issue of collaboration, the topics of clinical decision making, patient outcomes, barriers to collaboration, and promotion of it will be discussed.
Multidisciplinary Collaboration and Clinical Decision Making
Multidisciplinary collaboration can improve clinical decision making. First of all, it is important to understand that decision making in healthcare is not a series of separate decisions (that may be associated with administration, treatment, or other spheres) but a process that involves exploring the circumstances and choosing the best option. In the process, the variety and diversity of opinions, experiences, and professional backgrounds are important factors. According to Papathanassoglou et al. (2012), a collaboration between different health care providers is a positive factor in the delivery of care. It can be explained by the fact that multidisciplinary collaboration provides more options to decision-makers and improves the process of choosing the best ones.
Collaboration and Improved Patient Outcomes
Collaboration can lead to improved patient outcomes. Nair, Fitzpatrick, McNulty, Click, and Glembocki (2012) measured the frequency of nurse-physician collaborative behaviors in a particular facility, and the justification of the study was the recognition confirmed by previous studies that such behaviors positively affect patient outcomes. The delivery of care is a process, and all the members of the team have their roles, but those roles should not be seen as completely separate. When collaborating, health care providers can exchange valuable patient information and ensure that important details about treatment are not overlooked.
Lack of Collaboration
Based on the above, it can be argued that the lack of collaboration leads to poor patient outcomes. Van Sluisveld, Zegers, Natsch, and Wollersheim (2012) list the lack of collaboration among major barriers to medication safety. Medication safety is one of the main aspects of treatment that health care providers should ensure to avoid negative outcomes, which may include the worsening of a patient’s state and even death. Also, in case health care providers collaborate poorly, their efforts in delivering care will be uncoordinated, which will make treatment less effective.
Barriers to Professional Collaboration
Three barriers to successful professional collaboration among health care professionals and patients include poor communication, low engagement, and a “lack of clarity around nursing roles and scope of practice” (McInnes, Peters, Bonney, & Halcomb, 2015, p. 1977). First, in case communication channels are not established or well-adjusted, or communication barriers exist (such as any party’s unwillingness to share), collaborative behaviors are unlikely to occur. Second, in case patients are not engaged in the process of delivering care and are not encouraged to be engaged, effective collaboration is hard to achieve, too. Finally, participants often lack understanding of their roles and scope of practice; for example, nurses may be uncertain if particular aspects of care delivery are within their competencies, and this prevents them from collaborating with other participants of the process.
Best Ways to Promote Professional Collaboration
The five best ways to promote professional collaboration in pediatric primary care are authentic leadership, structural empowerment (Laschinger & Smith, 2013), development of communication channels, promotion of patient engagement, and positive administrative environment adjustments. First, health care professionals should promote leadership that shapes critical thinking and effective approaches to problem-solving. Second, the roles of different health care providers should be clearly defined, and professionals should be encouraged to be active. Third, communication should be improved to ensure that the collection, storage, and exchange of information are efficient. Fourth, patients should be encouraged to be more engaged in their care. Finally, in health care facilities, environments should be established (through policies and practices) that promote collaboration and eliminate barriers to it.
Encouraging and Supporting Collaboration
The main strategy a nurse practitioner can adopt to encourage and support collaboration among the patient, family, caregivers, and health care professionals is communicating to the patient and his or her family and caregivers the positive outcomes of collaborating and the negative outcomes of the lack of collaboration. Also, it is noteworthy that collaboration requires commitment (Bridges, 2014), which is why the nurse practitioner himself or herself should demonstrate a willingness to collaborate. Evaluation of collaboration should be performed regularly to support the practice and deliver evidence of its effectiveness.
Collaboration in health care is a positive factor in terms of improving the decision-making process and patient outcomes. To ensure better collaboration, health care providers should improve communications, define their roles clearly, and engage patients in the care delivery process. Importantly, the providers themselves should be committed to collaboration and should show their readiness to actively cooperate with other providers and patients. The positive outcomes of collaboration should be monitored, evaluated, and reported to confirm that collaboration is a positive practice that is worth being encouraged and supported.
Bridges, S. (2014). Exploration of the concept of collaboration within the context of nurse practitioner-physician collaborative practice. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 26(7), 402-410.
Laschinger, H. K., & Smith, L. M. (2013). The influence of authentic leadership and empowerment on new-graduate nurses’ perceptions of interprofessional collaboration. Journal of Nursing Administration, 43(1), 24-29.
McInnes, S., Peters, K., Bonney, A., & Halcomb, E. (2015). An integrative review of facilitators and barriers influencing collaboration and teamwork between general practitioners and nurses working in general practice. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(9), 1973-1985.
Nair, D. M., Fitzpatrick, J. J., McNulty, R., Click, E. R., & Glembocki, M. M. (2012). Frequency of nurse-physician collaborative behaviors in an acute care hospital. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 26(2), 115-120.
Papathanassoglou, E. D., Karanikola, M. N., Kalafati, M., Giannakopoulou, M., Lemonidou, C., & Albarran, J. W. (2012). Professional autonomy, collaboration with physicians, and moral distress among European intensive care nurses. American Journal of Critical Care, 21(2), e41-e52.
Van Sluisveld, N., Zegers, M., Natsch, S., & Wollersheim, H. (2012). Medication reconciliation at hospital admission and discharge: Insufficient knowledge, unclear task reallocation, and lack of collaboration as major barriers to medication safety. BMC Health Services Research, 12(170), 1-12.