Interdisciplinary care is increasingly recognized as a critical approach to systems of care due to its numerous benefits. One of the key advantages of interdisciplinary care is its ability to address the complex needs of the growing aging population. As individuals age, they often experience multiple chronic conditions that require specialized attention from different healthcare professionals. By bringing together experts from various disciplines, interdisciplinary teams can develop comprehensive care plans that consider all aspects of a patient’s health.
Both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teamwork have been used in healthcare in the past. However, although there is a clear difference between the two approaches to care, many educational researchers and practitioners use these terms interchangeably. The fundamental difference lies in the collaborative care plan that is only developed in interdisciplinary patient interventions, as multidisciplinary care does not emphasize an integrated approach to care.
For instance, let’s consider a scenario where an elderly patient is diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. In a multidisciplinary team, each specialist would focus on their respective field of expertise. The endocrinologist would primarily address diabetes management, the cardiologist would tackle hypertension, and the rheumatologist would address arthritis-related concerns. While each specialist may provide effective treatment within their domain, there may be a lack of coordination and integration in the overall care plan.
Multidisciplinary teams are unable to develop a cohesive care plan as each team member uses his or her own expertise to develop individual care goals. In contrast, each team member in an interdisciplinary team builds on each other’s expertise to achieve common, shared goals. Therefore, it is crucial to indicate that multidisciplinary teams work in a team; whereas, interdisciplinary teams engage in teamwork.
On the other hand, an interdisciplinary team consisting of professionals from different disciplines, such as endocrinology, cardiology, rheumatology, and geriatrics would collaborate to develop a holistic care plan. They would consider the interplay between the patient’s conditions, potential medication interactions, and lifestyle modifications. By working together, they can create a unified approach that optimizes the patient’s overall well-being, minimizing conflicts and maximizing the effectiveness of interventions.
An interdisciplinary care plan is developed by answering these questions:
1. What are the issues?
2. Who will be involved?
3. What will the interventions be?
4. What are the goals of the intervention?
5. When will re-evaluation occur?
Another benefit of interdisciplinary care is its ability to provide an individualized and patient-centered approach. Rather than solely focusing on their own goals and interventions, interdisciplinary teams prioritize shared goals that align with the patient’s needs and preferences. This collaborative decision-making ensures that the patient remains at the center of care, leading to improved patient satisfaction and engagement.
Therefore, interdisciplinary care must occur to bring about improved patient outcomes such as more efficient practice, an increasingly individualized and patient-centered approach, and improved quality of care. If healthcare professionals do not have the same intervention goals, patients may suffer. Therefore, if practitioners focus on a single, shared goal, a patient will be more successful in receiving the care that they require.
In addition, the need for interdisciplinary care is increasing as a result of:
• A growing aging population with chronic and complex needs
• The increasing knowledge and skill required to provide comprehensive care to patients
• The increasing specialization in healthcare fields
• The growing encouragement to develop multi-faceted teams in healthcare, and
• The increased emphasis on continuity in care planning.
Consider a cancer patient undergoing treatment. An interdisciplinary team consisting of oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, nutritionists, psychologists, and social workers would collaborate to develop a comprehensive care plan. They would consider the physical, emotional, and social aspects of the patient’s life, tailoring the treatment to their specific circumstances. By taking into account the patient’s preferences, values, and support system, the interdisciplinary team can optimize the treatment plan and improve the patient’s overall quality of life.
The need for interdisciplinary care is further emphasized by the increasing specialization within healthcare fields. As medical knowledge and technology advance, healthcare professionals are becoming highly specialized in their respective areas. While this specialization brings expertise in specific domains, it can create challenges in delivering comprehensive and coordinated care. Interdisciplinary care bridges these gaps by facilitating communication and collaboration among specialists, ensuring a more integrated and seamless healthcare experience for patients.
Furthermore, interdisciplinary care aligns with the growing emphasis on continuity in care planning. It allows for ongoing communication and information sharing among team members, enabling a smooth transition between different stages of care. This continuity is particularly crucial in managing chronic conditions and ensuring long-term patient well-being. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, healthcare providers can minimize gaps in care, reduce medical errors, and enhance patient safety.
Interdisciplinary care is essential in modern healthcare due to its ability to address complex patient needs, provide individualized and patient-centered care, and promote continuity in care planning. By bringing together professionals from various disciplines, interdisciplinary teams can develop integrated care plans that optimize patient outcomes, improve the efficiency of practice, and enhance the overall quality of care. Embracing interdisciplinary care is vital in meeting evolving healthcare demands and ensuring the well-being of individuals across the lifespan.
Therefore, changes in practice approaches and interventions need to take place to advocate for the use of integrated care plans. With a growing aging demographic and the development of more complex health problems, it is crucial that interdisciplinary care is used in all areas of the healthcare field. Interdisciplinary care aims to be an all-inclusive resort to meet the unique care needs of individuals. It is considered to be the “Hallmark of Geriatrics”; therefore, it must be represented in practice to improve the quality and efficiency of care to all individuals.
Walter C. Chop Regular H. Robnett, ed., Gerontology for the Health Care Professional, ed. (Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010).
Andrew Booth, Steven Ariss, Tony Smith, Pam Enderby, and Alison Roots4 Susan A Nancarrow, “Ten principles of good interdisciplinary team work,” Human Resource Health, 2013: 1-11.