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Essential tips to encourage collaboration within modern healthcare teams
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Essential tips to encourage collaboration within modern healthcare teams

<strong>Essential tips to encourage collaboration within modern healthcare teams</strong>

Coordinating care between different healthcare team members has become increasingly important as healthcare delivery becomes more interconnected. Through proper collaboration, healthcare teams can close communication gaps, minimize readmission rates, promote patient-centered care and reduce errors. 

A recent study reveals that U.S. medical errors cost approximately $20 billion annually, resulting in roughly 100,000 people dying. Fostering a collaborative workplace culture ensures healthcare professionals have access to pertinent data and are able to provide patients with more comprehensive care.

For instance, with a complex illness like cancer, collaboration is essential in treating several symptoms and aspects of the disease. A medical oncologist can diagnose and lead the chemotherapy, pharmacists can manage pain and nausea, and nurses can assist during appointments. By combining medical knowledge and backgrounds, healthcare professionals can evaluate the patient from different specialized perspectives and contribute relevant insights to diagnosis and treatment. 

While collaboration is essential in leading successful teams and improving patient outcomes, promoting an atmosphere where creativity and teamwork are valued can be incredibly challenging in a complex and dynamic healthcare environment. This article outlines several strategies to encourage collaboration within healthcare teams to meet increasingly complex patient demands.

Promote clear communication

Effective communication is an integral part of efficient and successful healthcare teams. When healthcare professionals communicate effectively, they drive better patient, team and organizational results. The way staff members communicate reflects the organization’s core values and determines how healthcare professionals transfer and receive information.

In other industries, team members are often responsible for a component of a project, but success in a healthcare environment requires an integrated approach. For instance, verbal communication instead of email or handwritten notes can ensure team members completely understand the meaning and intent behind critical information. This can be even more important in healthcare, where information flows within and between departments.

Although improvements in communication may not happen overnight, it is critical for healthcare professionals to make efforts to collaborate effectively and prevent miscommunication that can have adverse or fatal consequences. An excellent way to start improving communication is to assess your current method of communication and perform a gap analysis (an analysis that compares current performance and desired performance) to identify where you can improve. Once you’ve identified the communication gaps, you can streamline communication channels to make it easier for healthcare team members to collaborate and share their ideas.

Alternatively, you can create a comprehensive communication plan outlining which healthcare professionals need information on specific issues to prevent misalignment. When creating a communication plan, establish a centralized communication method and how often you will communicate with teams to ask for progress. This includes regulating the type and timings of face-to-face meetings to avoid deviating from your goal.

Clear communication also means developing a common language within a healthcare team. Confusion often arises when team members lack a shared understanding of terminologies used in interdepartmental communications. This ultimately results in a risk of miscommunication that would derail patient outcomes. It can also result in multiple back-and-forth communications between the team member and the healthcare team leader.

Developing a common language enables healthcare teams to communicate and receive information effectively. Doing so makes collaborating easier and ensures everyone is on the same page when working towards a treatment plan or goal. However, you must anticipate a learning curve when introducing the common language. Getting everyone to participate and involve them in the development process is essential for improving communications and making the process smooth sailing.

Define and establish achievable goals

Healthcare teams are comprised of multiple professionals and each member of the team has a unique way of seeing and treating patients. Differences in background, experience, specialty and profession can lead them to pay attention to specific cues and influence how they approach issues. Although gathering a diverse range of perspectives on care and approaches is essential, such diverse perspectives can cause biased decision-making and misunderstandings; they can also get in the way of the best care if they are not appropriately managed.

One way to manage these diverse perspectives and approaches within healthcare teams is to define and establish achievable goals that everyone supports. As the industry evolves, healthcare teams must let their members know what is expected of them and how to work with other professionals to boost overall productivity. Healthcare professionals often start experiencing problems when there is a lack of clarity and alignment within the team. This lack of clarity usually results in each team member managing tasks with a different goal, ultimately leading to the team going nowhere.

Setting clear goals empowers healthcare leaders to measure success based on objectives and specific task responsibilities. For example, you can clarify what information nurses must observe and note in the patient logs to communicate with physicians doing rounds and checking their patients. This prevents misaligned expectations and allows healthcare leaders to create a definite action plan that determines how their targets can be met.

Assign a leader

Friction in team dynamics is a common issue among healthcare teams when coming together to collaborate. This is often due to healthcare team members having differing key performance metrics and priorities. Without a leader providing and directing feedback, healthcare team members might be unable to fulfill their roles and this could create more problems.

Assigning a leader ensures healthcare teams get proper guidance to focus on achieving patient goals and objectives. There are some differences with traditional team management and leading healthcare teams is complex. It requires leaders to instill a system for organizing patient data, medical processes and whatever else everyone brings into the delivery of treatment. As the industry undergoes multiple changes, healthcare teams constantly encounter new challenges, opportunities and practices.

A strong leader can help healthcare teams through these challenges and act on patient feedback to improve collaboration and ensure better care. Strong leaders can also connect healthcare team members through a shared sense of purpose and build relationships that allow for increased collaboration and the ability to thrive. When assigning someone to this position, you must ensure the leader can keep everyone’s morale high as this decreases the chances of staff burnout, thus creating a more successful team.

One way of keeping everyone’s morale high is providing each team member with individual time and attention. This allows leaders to become better acquainted with the different skills and strengths among their teams. When healthcare leaders know the strengths and weaknesses of their team members, they can provide a solid foundation for developing individual competencies and help them grow into their roles. This also allows leaders to select and align team members to address specific purposes and problems.

Organize employee engagement activities

Continuous engagement within healthcare teams is no longer optional in today’s collaborative industry. When healthcare team members are engaged, they become more motivated and focused on achieving positive patient outcomes. Organizing employee engagement activities also empowers you to create more opportunities for healthcare team members to connect personally and professionally as well as reduce stress and disconnection from one another.

While there is no standard approach to team building in nursing, leading academic institutions such as Spring Arbor University ensure that graduates enter the nursing workforce with a solid understanding of the five key principles of team building: team structure, communication, leadership, situation monitoring and mutual support. In doing so, Spring Arbor University prepares graduates to create a positive working environment that recognizes and celebrates individual and team effort to help everyone feel satisfied and connected to their work.

On the surface, this might not seem to improve collaboration in healthcare delivery but, when you dig deeper, employee engagement activities can create synergy among healthcare team members, empowering them to be their whole selves at work. A recent Gallup study shows that highly engaged workplaces that specialize in sales are 18% more productive. Although this is focused on retail, the idea of engagement can translate into any industry; when the healthcare team is more productive, they can treat multiple patients simultaneously and deliver comprehensive care.

Encourage feedback

Healthcare team leaders must create an environment where their team members feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their opinions. In a pressure-packed and fast-paced healthcare industry, each member depends on another to react to changes in medical and treatment processes in a timely way. Recent data shows roughly 73% of individuals felt they were better collaborators due to giving and receiving constructive feedback.

By encouraging feedback, healthcare team leaders can empower members to centralize and improve processes and collaborate between departments. An excellent way to start is by conducting one-on-one meetings to connect with your team members more personally and open the floor up for honest discussion. When you want to promote honest feedback, creating a safe atmosphere for the direct report is essential in building trust and making them feel more relaxed.

Alternatively, you can enable anonymous team member feedback to determine collaboration issues you would otherwise not know about. This is because opinions expressed anonymously may be more honest and straightforward as you allow team members to speak more freely.

Working towards improved collaboration in healthcare

No single medical professional makes up the entire healthcare team when it comes to patient care. Once you’ve collected team member feedback, you can identify collaboration issues and the areas you need to improve to help everyone work better together. By working towards improved collaboration, medical teams can reduce errors and preventable complications, improve patient satisfaction and create an excellent healthcare experience.

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