Recently I read a research paper that talked about better outcomes through working in health care teams. I am fascinated how far too often research validates obvious common sense. Don’t misunderstand me – I am a very strong supporter of research and knowledge development and I often have written about the importance of evidence-based decision-making both for clinical care and system design. But let’s get real…. working in teams makes total sense if the teams are pulling in the same direction (like Canadian Geese flying in the V formation to build speed).
So if it is so obvious and we have scientific evidence, why do we rarely see teams at work in health care? Too often, we see single clinical groups and often their message is not consistent with another clinical group. Why do we rarely see teams within settings such as hospitals, primary health care and others? And we almost NEVER see team efforts across sectors like hospitals and home care, or with rehab facilities and long-term care facilities. To compound the issue of lack of teamwork, it is not common to see collaborative efforts between clinicians, patients, families and communities.
A number of responses to the blogs about my experience with my husband and the health care system have reinforced these issues. One person commented that most family members are not comfortable asking questions, commenting or advocating on behalf of a family member. Others commented that I am “brave” to advocate for my husband. I must say I just shake my head: what do you mean “brave”; what do you mean “intimidated”? We need to make sure that as a society we understand health care professionals are privileged to serve those who are in need of their services. We also need to remind health care professionals that during times of sickness and distress, we are vulnerable and the covenant that health care professionals have with their clients is to help, support and guide those in need. We, as “users” of the system, we as the “executives” of the system, we as “professionals” of the system have to remember that we were given the right to serve. That “right” means we have to do the very best, which includes evidence-based care and a team approach, both with other professionals and with the patients and families. We need to stop from time to time and ask a few simple questions:
- Do you (the patient and family) have any questions; did you understand what I told you?
- How can I/we help you?
- How are you feeling?
- Who supports you in your care?
It never ends to amaze me how much information you can gather by asking a few questions and by observing the situation. Healing and well-being does not happen just because we prescribed tests and medicine. When we deal with somewhat complex and chronic situation, we will gain much better health outcome through teamwork. Some simple lessons and some common sense will take us a long way.