Team-Based Health Care

Patricia J Ohtake, PT, PhD, is assistant vice president for interprofessional education at the University at Buffalo, and an associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science in the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

By Patricia J Ohtake, PT, PhD

Imagining health care 25 years from now is nothing short of exciting, as biomedical advances that are in their infancy will become mainstream: a single blood test to predict future potential for chronic disease, genomic-driven personalized medicine, wearable biomedical devices that provide sophisticated monitoring and reporting through mobile applications, and 3D printing of organs and prosthetics. While these advances in biomedical technology will continue beyond our imagination, the delivery of care by talented health care professionals who are highly skilled in team-based care is the essential ingredient for the translation of these advances into positive health outcomes for people with illness, injury and chronic diseases.

Medical advances have changed diseases that were life-ending into manageable, albeit chronic, health conditions. This increase in the number of people with chronic physical and mental health conditions results in an increasing demand for health care services and providers. Using a team-based approach to care for this increasing population of people with chronic conditions will utilize the rich knowledge and skills of health care providers from many professions to optimize patient outcomes and ensure that people are healthier throughout their entire lives.

We know that team-based health care is associated with improved patient health outcomes and satisfaction, strengthened health systems and reduced costs of patient care. Team-based care will be the culture of all health care systems. Collaboration with other health care providers, the patients and their caregivers, either in person or virtually, will be commonplace. The increased demand on health care providers that currently is associated with high rates of provider burnout and job dissatisfaction will be a thing of the past because of our collaborative health care culture, a culture well known to be protective against burnout.

It is essential to this vision of collaborative health care delivery that primary care will be highly valued, easily accessible and available and will be delivered at community clinics using a team-based culture. In addition to caring for people when they are unwell, these health care teams will work together to ensure optimal community health through the provision of annual wellness visits to screen for health risks and current problems associated with the social determinants of health, physical health and mental health. The outcomes of these screenings will be visits with the appropriate health care team members and the implementation of coordinated strategies to mitigate the risks, rectify problems and provide wellness counseling.

So how do we make this vision of a culture of collaborative health care practice a reality? Four years ago, UB embarked on the mission to prepare highly competent health care professionals who improve health outcomes by excelling in interprofessional communication, teamwork and the provision of safe, ethical patient- and population-centered care. We are on an exciting trajectory to advance health care delivery through team-based care by providing interprofessional education for our students. Through participation in the Office of Interprofessional Education’s learning experiences, health-professions students come together to learn from and with each other. Each year, UB graduates more than 1,000 health-professions students who have learned the essential skills of collaborative practice—the roles and responsibilities of other health care providers, interprofessional communication and teamwork.

Twenty-five years from now, there will be approximately 30,000 UB health-professions graduates who have been educated to practice in the culture of collaborative health care—and many of these graduates will be providing care in our local communities. In 25 years, not only will our community be physically and mentally healthier due to their positive interactions with their collaborative health care team, but health care providers themselves will also be healthier, with negligible burnout due to their practice culture of collaboration.