Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Healthcare’s Secret Weapon During Pandemic

Multidisciplinary collaboration is essential in providing the best patient care, especially during a national health emergency. We can look at multidisciplinary collaboration not only as healthcare's secret weapon during the pandemic—but also as the foundation for the healthcare of tomorrow. Few would argue that providing expert counsel from different disciplines is beneficial. Many don't realize how far-reaching those benefits can be and how this vital collaboration can be facilitated easily with the right technology.

But it just makes sense.

Collaboration, the ability to share expertise between professional colleagues, creates opportunity. Role-based collaboration between healthcare professionals who represent different disciplines and differing points of view can result in a care plan that addresses the patient's needs and best interests— from multiple perspectives. This passionate belief in clinical collaboration's real value inspired us to build the Halo Health Clinical Collaboration Platform (CCP). We started with a messaging platform to allow that collaboration to happen. Over time the Halo platform evolved to include different communication channels, like voice and alerts. Today the Halo CCP also provides the ability to do even more sophisticated role-based and teams-based communications.

What is multidisciplinary collaboration?

Multidisciplinary collaboration is pretty much what it sounds like: teamwork between more than one professional discipline. In healthcare, we also refer to it as multidisciplinary care and clinical collaboration. The concept is not new but has grown in usage as treatments have become more sophisticated. There are also increasing numbers of clinical specialties that impact patient care. Take, for example, treatment of a cancer diagnosis. In the seventies and eighties, cancer treatments began to include more treatment options. Physicians no longer used the one chemotherapy that treated everything. Now there were several types of chemotherapies to consider. Simultaneously, there were surgical options, radiation therapy, and then soon, genetic counseling was introduced as an essential component of a cancer treatment plan. Next came nutritional counseling and mental health considerations. The range of treatments, and the clinicians providing them, was expanding. But everyone was speaking with their own voice to the patient. Everyone was prioritizing their part of the treatment. For example, should the surgery come first? Or is chemotherapy versus radiation first? Either is a viable option for a cancer patient, depending on the type of cancer and its stage. And the questions would continue. Does the patient need nutrition therapy? Should we get genetic therapy before starting treatment? Physicians were asking many questions and making many vital decisions—decisions that were more effectively made in a collaborative form with a team around a cancer patient.

And this is just using cancer as an example.

The same types of things were happening with heart disease. There were genetic counselors involved, nutritionists, cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, heart surgeons, and many other specialties. Basically, in every condition, even GI and kidney diseases, we learned we could take a team-based approach to treat a patient. Today, as medicine advances and new specialties are developed, there are even more people surrounding their care.

The challenges of team-building before CCPs

But before we had tech platforms like CCPs, there were real challenges inherent in building teams of professionals to provide this treatment. To begin with, communication between clinicians was difficult. In healthcare, you have people working at different times and from various locations, so getting everyone together for a meeting was hard. It took time to arrange everyone's schedules. Back in the day, when so many hospital settings relied on old technology like pagers and faxes and answering machines, you or your nurses could waste a lot of time trying to track people down to schedule a meeting. Even getting a quick answer took time. You might place a call, get an answering machine, and then wait for the person you called to get back to you and find you available to hold that conversation. Or you might send someone a text but not know that they weren't on the schedule that day. They might be tied up somewhere else and not available to respond. You might often not even be reaching out to the right person—but even learning that could take a couple of days. All of this added time and confusion to the patient's care and cost the hospital additional time and expense as its employees worked to get answers and organize team meetings. It was hard on the patient too. When someone is in the hospital, they're already concerned, perhaps even scared. A cancer diagnosis, especially in those days, could be terrifying. So waiting and wondering about what was coming next created levels of anxiety for the patient. We were all intent on finding a better way. Finding ways to provide the best treatment as quickly as possible meant finding a better way. As it turns out, finding a better way meant collaborating. And, then using technology to make that collaboration easy for everyone involved.

What benefits does multidisciplinary collaboration offer?

It's essential to consider the broad range of benefits that multidisciplinary care and collaboration offers. From the clinicians' perspective, it provides an opportunity to work as part of a united team in delivering the best care with input from each of the clinicians involved. There's something truly empowering about working closely with other professionals to provide a comprehensive path to improved health—we learn from one another. We are then able to provide even higher levels of care. Also, clinical collaboration teams follow the patient throughout their healthcare journey, providing a comforting sense of continuity. Clinicians become familiar not only with the patient's case, but with each other, and know how to reach out for quick feedback when something comes up. We have found that this kind of multifunctional team work frequently produces better outcomes and can reduce inefficiencies. “Multifunctional teams can be more efficient, effective, innovative, and better at risk management compared with purely functional teams,” write Lyndon Morley and Angela Cashell in “Collaboration in Health Care,” published in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences. “This is achieved by creating an opportunity for a broad range of ideas, considerations, and compromises to be worked out as early as possible to avoid costly errors, rework, and miscommunication.” Multidisciplinary collaboration offers genuine benefits to the patient, including starting treatment sooner in many cases. Clinical collaboration allows physicians to speak with a unified voice, which is less confusing for the patient and their family and helps reduce anxieties. The patient wins by having an entire team of experts on their side, working together for the best outcomes, each coming at it with their particular area of expertise. Collaboration today, using the available technology, can also work to get treatment started more quickly and keep things moving faster than when individual physicians and nurses are working independently of one another. For the hospital, multidisciplinary collaboration can save time and cost in patient care by consolidating steps, reviewing test results in group settings, or lining up appointments to review treatments or prognoses one after the other. This collaboration can highlight the places where there might be duplication or steps that can be avoided.

Clinical Collaboration Platforms: Making the difference in today's collaborations.

In the past, collaborating, while hugely valuable, was challenging to schedule regularly. Treatment protocols and different specialties all had to weigh in on a patient's case, adding days and sometimes weeks to the entire process. Consider the case of a breast cancer patient, for example. She goes for her mammogram. Her physician checks the results and finds an abnormality. The patient is scheduled to come back in to meet with her doctor to review the test results and learns the doctor will have to do a biopsy. She gets scheduled for that procedure, has the biopsy, and now waits for the results. Days later, she receives a call from her doctor's office telling her she will need to see a surgeon, which she schedules as quickly as possible, but that can be a matter of days or sometimes weeks. At her appointment with the surgeon, he tells her he isn't sure surgery is the right course of action and recommends seeing a medical oncologist. So she sets the appointment with the medical oncologist, again adding more time and more delay. When she can see the medical oncologist, she's told she could receive chemotherapy, followed by radiation, or have the surgery first. The medical oncologist decides to consult with the surgeon and suggests she come back the following week to have a port installed for the chemotherapy. So you can see, before a patient has a prescribed course of treatment and the whole prognosis, there are many steps and many delays, which can be agonizing and very, very scary. Contrast this example with one where the patient has a biopsy, and the next day is presented at a multidisciplinary tumor board. Her case is presented at noon. The doctors she will see are all there and will have reviewed her case. They will look at the pathology slides, look at the radiology, and put a plan together, then and there. The genetic counselor is there, so is someone from nutrition. She can have the port installed the same day, come in and see her doctors simultaneously, one after the other, at the same place. She gets her treatment plan and starts chemotherapy within days. She will next have her surgery and, afterward, the radiation treatment. The patient already knows the treatment plan, she has already met the doctors, and she has a nurse navigator with whom she can communicate for anything not covered by her discussions with her doctors. Creating this kind of cohesive, organized teamwork reduces the time this patient has to wait to begin treatment. She can find a level of peace of mind about her health and her treatment plan, which is incredibly valuable in her healing.

Technology makes collaboration work.

Today's technology makes this collaboration almost seamless. With a Clinical Collaboration Platform, like Halo, communicating with team members, becomes easy. Cloud-based CCPs unify disparate communications throughout the enterprise and work on doctors' and nurses' mobile devices. This technology provides flexibility and protects sensitive patient data, and makes it convenient for the doctors and nurses to send texts via its HIPAA-compliant platform. Things like putting together a tumor board for a new patient, reviewing scans and test results--and even collaborating virtually as a team can be done as part of a busy daily shift. With Halo's CCP, for example, role-based and team-based messaging means that a clinician can send a message, text, or test result and know that it will get to the right person at the right time—immediately. And this is what we imagined all those years ago—a way to employ technology in the service of collaboration and communication between medical professionals. We've added scheduling functionality baked into Halo's CCP, so that eliminates whole categories of wasted time searching to see which doctor is on call and available to consult. Halo’s built-in scheduling functionality and role-based messaging provide real-time access to a wide variety of roles and even allow users to create COVID-19 specific roles.Hospitals are using this technology to streamline communications and workflows and simplify processes so that doctors and nurses can collaborate easily, no matter when they are working or from what location.

Multidisciplinary collaboration: A secret weapon during the national health emergency.

Circling back to the concept of the much-needed secret weapon during this national health emergency brings us back to multidisciplinary collaboration, which has never been more vital than it is now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working as a team to assess and treat patients suffering from the virus makes the most of the limited resources and exhausted personnel. For each of the medical professionals working to meet the needs of gravely ill patients, those with the virus, and those who haven't caught it and still need in-hospital care, access to a clinical collaboration platform acts as a secret weapon against a powerful enemy. In every area of collaboration and communication across the entire enterprise and off-campus locations, your cloud-based clinical collaboration platform can make it easier to do your job—and do it well. Having this technology at the ready makes delivering the best patient care possible even during a national health emergency. Links: Role-based collaboration between healthcare professionals Clinical collaboration’s real value inspired us to build the Halo Health Teamwork between more than one professional discipline Save time and cost in patient care Broad range of benefits that multidisciplinary care and collaboration More efficient, effective and better at risk management Multidisciplinary tumor board Scheduling functionality baked into Halo’s CCP Working as a team to assess and treat patients Built-in scheduling functionality and role-based messaging
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