Best Practice Interdisciplinary Collaboration Strategies for Large Health Systems

Interdisciplinary collaboration in large health systems is a critical driver of optimized patient outcomes, innovation, and overall organizational success. This approach brings together diverse medical professionals, combining a breadth of skills, perspectives, and expertise to solve complex health problems. These best practice interdisciplinary collaboration strategies will help you foster key relationships throughout your organization and seed better interaction between disciplines.

From clinicians to administrators and IT specialists, interdisciplinary collaboration acknowledges the value that each role brings to patient care. It’s not just about enhancing the efficiency of healthcare delivery. It’s also about fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement within the organization.

With the best practices laid out in this article, large health systems can deliver a higher standard of patient care. This article aims to explore these strategies, shedding light on their implementation, potential barriers, and the transformative impact they can have on both healthcare professionals and the patients they serve.

The Landscape of Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Healthcare

Today’s healthcare trends highlight an increasing demand for collaborative efforts, ensuring every patient receives a multifaceted care approach.

Traditional Healthcare Silos: An Overview

Traditionally, healthcare has been characterized by the existence of ‘silos’ – isolated units that operate independently without much communication or collaboration. These silos typically arose from the highly specialized nature of medicine. As experts in their fields, healthcare professionals tended to operate within their own domains, with limited external interaction. This specialization has, to an extent, been necessary: every facet of medicine requires a deep, specific knowledge to deliver proper care.

However, these silos can be detrimental to the delivery of comprehensive, coordinated care. While specialization allows for in-depth knowledge and skills in a particular area, it can inadvertently create barriers to collaborative care. The lack of communication and collaboration between different specialties can lead to fragmented care, patient safety risks, and decreased patient satisfaction. The silo mentality can also reduce efficiency, as efforts are duplicated and resources are not optimally utilized.

Making the Case for Change

The shift from siloed healthcare towards interdisciplinary collaboration is imperative. Healthcare is increasingly complex, with patients often presenting with multiple, interconnected health issues that cannot be effectively addressed by one specialty alone. Moreover, the rise of chronic illnesses requires continuous care coordination across various healthcare professionals.

By breaking down the silos with best practice interdisciplinary collaboration strategies, healthcare systems can deliver more holistic, patient-centered care. This approach ensures that each patient’s health is viewed in a comprehensive manner, considering all factors and conditions at once. Additionally, it fosters communication and cooperation, leading to better patient outcomes, improved patient satisfaction, and enhanced efficiency within the system.

Change is often challenging, and this is no different in the healthcare sector. But the potential benefits of dismantling traditional healthcare silos and embracing collaborative, interdisciplinary strategies are immense. Therefore, as we navigate the complex landscape of modern healthcare, it is evident that the path towards success is one of collaboration and cohesion. Modern employee apps like MangoApps make this coordination easier than it has ever been for large health systems.

The Pillars of Successful Interdisciplinary Collaboration

For collaboration to be successful, it must be founded on certain principles:

Mutual Respect and Value

Interdisciplinary collaboration in healthcare necessitates a culture that fosters mutual respect and values the unique contribution of each professional. This principle is paramount to building a collaborative environment where every member feels valued and heard. Moreover, healthcare professionals from different backgrounds bring their unique skills, knowledge, and perspectives to the table.

Mutual respect facilitates open communication, encourages the sharing of ideas, and promotes a sense of camaraderie among the team. This not only enhances job satisfaction, but it also bolsters productivity and efficiency, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is integral to successful interdisciplinary collaboration. In a healthcare setting, communication is more than just talking; it involves clearly conveying patient information, sharing professional perspectives, and making collective decisions. It requires fluent interchange of ideas, active listening, and understanding the views of others.

Overall, a robust communication mechanism helps to prevent misunderstandings, increases efficiency, and ensures all members are aligned towards a common goal: optimal patient care.

Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Clear definition of roles and responsibilities is another vital element of effective interdisciplinary collaboration. It provides a roadmap of who does what, and ensures that no task is overlooked.

Each team member should understand their individual role, as well as how they fit into the larger team and patient care process. Clarity in roles can prevent duplication of efforts, increase efficiency, and lead to improved patient outcomes.

Shared Goals and Objectives

Interdisciplinary teams should have shared goals and objectives that align with the vision of the healthcare organization. These goals provide a common purpose and direction, uniting the team and fostering cohesive efforts. Additionally, it promotes accountability, as each member knows what they are working towards, and understands how their role contributes to the larger goal.

Shared objectives inspire teamwork and collaboration, ensuring all members are pulling in the same direction for the betterment of patient care.

Continual Learning and Development

Interdisciplinary collaboration isn’t a one-time effort; it requires continual learning and development. Healthcare is an ever-evolving field with new advancements and challenges cropping up regularly. To keep up with these changes, healthcare professionals should engage in lifelong learning, continually improving their skills and knowledge.

Additionally, they should be open to learning from each other—physicians learning from nurses, administrators learning from IT specialists, and so on. This fosters an environment of growth, innovation, and excellence, ultimately leading to better patient care and satisfaction. A great place to start with an initiative like this is building a HIPAA-compliant intranet where all the different teams can have centralized access to resources and collaboration spaces.

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Best Practice Strategies for Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration

To actualize the principles of collaboration, here are some proven strategies:

Strategy 1: Regular Team Meetings

Regular team meetings provide a platform for open dialogue and collaboration. These meetings are opportunities to discuss patient care plans, exchange ideas, address issues, and make collective decisions. It allows each team member to share their professional perspective and contribute to the decision-making process. Regular team interactions build rapport among team members, fostering a sense of unity and shared responsibility. This ensures all members are aligned and working cohesively towards optimal patient care.

Strategy 2: Interprofessional Training

Interprofessional training programs are pivotal in fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. They provide healthcare professionals with the opportunity to learn about, from, and with each other. Furthermore, these training programs can help to break down stereotypes, promote understanding of each other’s roles and perspectives, and build mutual respect. This equips healthcare professionals with the skills to collaborate effectively, enhancing patient care and satisfaction.

Strategy 3: Use of Collaboration Tools

Technology can play a critical role in enhancing interdisciplinary collaboration. Collaboration tools such as electronic health records, telecommunication apps, and project management software can streamline communication, making it easier for healthcare professionals to collaborate. These tools can facilitate the sharing of patient information, coordination of care plans, and tracking of progress. This not only increases efficiency but also leads to more seamless, coordinated care.

Strategy 4: Celebrating Successes Across Teams

Recognizing and celebrating successes across interdisciplinary teams can boost morale, foster a sense of unity, and promote collaboration—that’s why hospital recognition programs are so important. When team members feel appreciated for their contributions, they are more likely to continue working collaboratively towards shared goals and objectives. Celebrating successes also creates positive energy within the team, motivating them to strive for even greater accomplishments in the future.

Strategy 5: Feedback Systems

Implementing systems for feedback and recognition can help in promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. Regular feedback allows healthcare professionals to understand their strengths and areas for improvement. It fosters a culture of continual learning and improvement, and ensures that employees feel comfortable using their voice to promote change. By nurturing such an environment, healthcare organizations ensure that their teams are continually striving for excellence in patient care.

Challenges to Overcome in Interdisciplinary Collaboration

While the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration are indisputable, it is not without its challenges. Here are some key obstacles that healthcare teams may encounter when trying to implement best practice interdisciplinary collaboration strategies.

Communication Barriers

Effective interdisciplinary collaboration hinges on clear, open communication. However, communication barriers can sometimes make this difficult. These can range from language barriers, different communication styles, and hierarchical dynamics that inhibit open dialogue. Overcoming these barriers requires active efforts to foster an environment where all team members feel comfortable and empowered to express their ideas and concerns.

Resistance to Change

As with any change, there can be resistance when trying to implement interdisciplinary collaboration. Some healthcare professionals may be set in their ways and reluctant to adopt a collaborative approach. This can be due to fear of losing autonomy, lack of understanding of other roles, or simply a comfort in established routines. It is crucial to address these concerns and resistance head-on, demonstrating the benefits of collaboration and providing the necessary support during the transition.

Sometimes resistance can arise due to poor employee engagement. Ideas around employee engagement can help combat this, paving the way for a renewed focus on interdisciplinary collaboration.

Lack of Role Clarity

Another potential challenge is a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities. If team members are unsure of their specific roles or the roles of their colleagues, this can lead to confusion, overlap of tasks, and inefficiencies. Providing clear role definitions, and ensuring everyone understands not only their own responsibilities but also those of their teammates, is key to smooth collaboration.

Differing Goals and Expectations

Differing goals and expectations can also pose a challenge to interdisciplinary collaboration. Each healthcare professional may have their own objectives and expectations regarding patient care, which may not always align with those of other team members. Establishing shared goals and objectives from the outset can help to prevent these issues and ensure everyone is working towards the same outcome.

Time Constraints

Finally, time constraints can often be a significant challenge to effective collaboration. Healthcare professionals often have demanding schedules, which can make it difficult to find time for team meetings and collaborative discussions. Utilizing collaboration tools and technology, as well as ensuring collaboration is viewed as a priority and not an additional task, can help to overcome this issue.

Overcoming these challenges is not always easy, but with the right strategies and commitment, it is entirely possible. The benefits of successful interdisciplinary collaboration—from improved patient care to increased efficiency and job satisfaction—make it well worth the effort.

Reducing burnout, which is a hot topic for today’s health systems, is a piece of the puzzle here as well. Many of the signs of physician burnout, for example, go hand in hand with exacerbating these challenges to collaboration.

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The Future of Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Health Systems

As healthcare systems continue to evolve and become more complex, interdisciplinary collaboration will only become increasingly important. Advancements in technology, an aging population with multiple chronic conditions, and a growing emphasis on patient-centered care all point to the need for effective collaboration among clinical teams.

In the future, we can expect to see even greater integration of technology in facilitating interdisciplinary teamwork. This may include virtual collaboration platforms, artificial intelligence systems to aid in decision-making, and remote patient monitoring tools. As healthcare organizations continue to prioritize interdisciplinary collaboration, we can also expect to see more emphasis on training and education for healthcare professionals to effectively work in interdisciplinary teams.

Ultimately, the success of interdisciplinary collaboration will depend on the willingness of healthcare professionals to embrace change and work together towards a common goal—providing the best possible care for patients.


Interdisciplinary collaboration isn’t just a buzzword—it’s the cornerstone of successful patient care in large health systems. By adopting best practice interdisciplinary collaboration strategies, health systems can usher in an era of unparalleled patient care and operational efficiency.

Learn more about how an employee app like MangoApps can help your health system improve collaboration, or read about reducing nurse turnover or physician engagement strategies.

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