A key factor in the successful implementation of new technology, processes, or philosophies, such as interoperability, is the alignment of all parties involved. For healthcare initiatives, this includes the alignment of not only hospitals and physicians, but also physicians and patients. When these three groups are aligned, there are better outcomes for everyone. One of the best strategies for healthcare alignment is interprofessional collaboration, an approach that involves the partnership of medical providers to share information in the pursuit of more efficient, patient-centered medical practices. Through interprofessional collaboration, the final element of healthcare alignment falls into place: patient-physician trust. 

Fostering Hospital-Physician Alignment 

The first step toward interprofessional collaboration is the alignment of hospitals and health systems with physicians. In a 2018 report published by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, 6 strategies for hospital-physician alignment were identified: 

  1. Know Your Partners
    This strategy involves performing due diligence, setting expectations, understanding physician needs, planning for generational differences, and offering options that meet physicians’ preferences.
  2. Put Physicians in Charge
    This strategy involves establishing governance that includes physician leadership and open feedback, as well as supporting those physicians who are in charge.
  3. Support Data-Driven Decisions
    This strategy involves using multiple data sources to measure performance, efficiently conveying meaningful information, and providing coaching on data and clinical documentation.
  4. Make It Worth Their While
    This strategy involves offering meaningful financial incentives, striking a balance between productivity and quality, supporting new models of care, rewarding efficiency, developing novel performance metrics, and staying in sync with health plans.
  5. Be Transparent
    This strategy involves collaborating with physicians to set goals and agree on metrics, using head-to-head peer comparisons, allowing physicians to lead performance improvement, and using MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act) as an accelerator.
  6. Provide the Tools for Success
    This strategy involves providing practice support, which includes scribes, technology, and care management resources. It also involves leveraging technology to improve workflow and care, such as iOrder order management software. Helping with reporting requirements is also a part of this strategy. 

Encouraging Interprofessional Collaboration

 Once hospital-physician alignment has been achieved, providers can begin focusing on interprofessional collaboration, or IPC for short. IPC involves the teamwork of medical professionals across professions and facilities; from doctors to nurses to pharmacists, improving healthcare is a collaborative group effort that involves trust. Trust is one of the most crucial barriers to overcome in regards to interoperability , but the benefits of IPC far outweigh the potential drawbacks. Healthcare providers should strive to promote collaboration amongst various staff and departments so they can focus on what benefits patients the most. 

Here are some important ways IPC can drastically improve healthcare: 

  • Reduced Medical Errors

By working together and sharing information and knowledge, medical professionals can help greatly reduce the risk of medical errors, which are often the result of poor communication. As patients move through the healthcare system, there’s a greater chance of medical errors occurring if information isn’t accurately passed on from one provider to the next. For example, a recent study concluded that including a pharmacist in the care of ICU patients reduced the potential of adverse drug events by two thirds. 

  • Improved Care Efficiency

Coordination and collaboration between medical providers also leads to more efficient patient care. This means patients receive the right care at the right time, resulting in faster, more accurate treatment and diagnosis and the elimination of unnecessary procedures. One study found that IPC reduced the risk for readmission to a hospital by as much as 19%. 

  • Higher Satisfaction – for Patients AND Providers

The aforementioned benefits of interprofessional care come together to result in higher satisfaction among patients. Increased patient satisfaction has a ripple effect that leads to happier work environments for providers. When patients and providers are both more satisfied with the quality of care, the final piece of alignment is much easier to establish: Trust. 

Patient-Physician Trust 

While interprofessional collaboration can help establish trust between patients and physicians, it’s important to strengthen and maintain that trust to maximize the benefits for everyone involved. Just as collaboration between medical providers leads to better quality of care, so does collaboration between patients and providers. The key to this collaboration and trust-building is to think of the relationship between physician and patient as a partnership. Here are some steps physicians can take to strengthen this partnership with their patients: 

  1. Emphasize the importance of information sharing.
  2. Take a peer-to-peer approach to discussing health issues with patients.
  3. Maintain proper body language and tone: exchange pleasantries, keep eye contact, sit while speaking with patients, and show empathy.
  4. Listen and don’t interrupt to ensure you capture as much information as possible.
  5. Ensure patients feel comfortable and dignified. 

The main thing to keep in mind when building trust with patients is to collaborate, not dictate. When physicians and patients work together to tackle health issues, the benefits of healthcare alignment are fully realized. 

Conclusion 

Alignment in healthcare is complicated, but the benefits are well worth it. After all, healthcare is all about improving people’s quality of life. Healthcare alignment starts with hospital-physician alignment which ensures medical professionals have the tools and support they need to provide the best possible care for their patients. Once those tools and support systems are in place, interprofessional collaboration is viable. By working together, providers across different disciplines can provide more effective and efficient care while also reducing medical errors and unnecessary procedures. This results in higher patient satisfaction, which lays the groundwork for the final piece of alignment: patient-physician trust. Once that trust is established, patients and their physicians can work together to achieve the most effective care possible for each individual patient. This improved relationship between physicians and patients in turn helps bring the entire process full circle by providing evidence of the benefits of healthcare alignment.