An intervention to improve interprofessional collaboration and communications : a comparative qualitative study

Rice, Kathleen, Zwarenstein, Merrick, Conn, Lesley Gotlib, Kenaszchuk, Chris, Russell, Ann and Reeves, Scott (2010) An intervention to improve interprofessional collaboration and communications : a comparative qualitative study. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 24(4), pp. 350-361. ISSN (print) 1356-1820


Interprofessional communication and collaboration are promoted by policymakers as fundamental building blocks for improving patient safety and meeting the demands of increasingly complex care. This paper reports qualitative findings of an interprofessional intervention designed to improve communication and collaboration between different professions in general internal medicine (GIM) hospital wards in Canada. The intervention promoted self-introduction by role and profession to a collaborating colleague in relation to the shared patient, a question or communication regarding the patient, to be followed by an explicit request for feedback from the partner professional. Implementation and uptake of the intervention were evaluated using qualitative methods, including 90 hours of ethnographic observations and interviews collected in both intervention and comparison wards. Documentary data were also collected and analysed. Fieldnotes and interviews were transcribed and analysed thematically. Our findings suggested that the intervention did not produce the anticipated changes in communication and collaboration between health professionals, and allowed us to identify barriers to the implementation of effective collaboration interventions. Despite initially offering verbal support, senior physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals minimally explained the intervention to their junior colleagues and rarely role-modelled or reiterated support for it. Professional resistances as well as the fast paced, interruptive environment reduced opportunities or incentive to enhance restrictive interprofessional relationships. In a healthcare setting where face-to-face spontaneous interprofessional communication is not hostile but is rare and impersonal, the perceived benefits of improvement are insufficient to implement simple and potentially beneficial communication changes, in the face of habit, and absence of continued senior clinician and management support.

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