Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Primary Health Care Initiative

Communications

Spotlight on Collaboration

Barb Leslie is a dietitian who has made collaboration her way of doing things for over ten years.  “A team approach is the only way to get quality results; and more and more often, the patient knows this and wants it,” says Leslie.

Leslie is part of the Wellness Centre Project at Richmond Hospital in Richmond, British Columbia.  This project provides a community focused, easy-access approach to primary health care where a team of professionals, including dietitians, pharmacists and mental health workers, partner with family physicians in the treatment of chronic disease.  The Project extends the reach of the core team, as needed, to include other health professionals, city recreational services, disease associations and volunteer groups -- all working to ensure that patients get the best results.

To Leslie, and dietitians generally, it's all about patient self-care.  “More than anything else, our patients want to learn the skills required to successfully manage their condition and they know that no single discipline has all the answers.  This means that a collaborative approach is the only way to deliver what the patient wants and needs --quality treatment that covers all the bases.”

Dietitians have always strived to form collaborative relationships with the other professions, says Leslie.  “We know that the benefits of good nutrition must be incorporated into the overall treatment picture, but sometimes, in the past, nutrition was left out or considered as an afterthought.”  But that changed when North American eating habits and the rise in rates of obesity began to have clear and ominous health implications.

Leslie looks back ten years to her first efforts to widen the circle of contributors to patient care.   At first there was a lot of “jostling”, but she says practitioners eventually sorted through their roles and began to trust and respect the professional contribution each was making.  “Most important, we began to see a marked improvement in quality; and the patients felt better served and better informed about what to do.   As professionals our job satisfaction went way up, and work was more often fun, and that's important.”

“The world is a complicated place and very few of us feel they have all the skills required for quality patient care any more.  Collaborative teams and networks are ready to explode as the accepted model of the way to deliver health care.”

Leslie is pleased with the efforts being made to speed up the adoption of collaborative approaches, noting that the province's Partnering with Family Physicians in Chronic Disease Management Program has enabled her project.   That program is also supported by the Health Canada Primary Health Care Fund. 

“It will need more funding and support to really make it happen,” she says.  “That's why the EICP initiative is so important.  But there is so much the individual practitioner can do as well – investigate, do the research, try your own ideas, have faith in your skill set and jump in.   Make some calls and you'll find out very quickly that there are a lot of other people who are interested.”

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Spotlight on Collaboration

The Collaboration Toolkit is now available for your reading pleasure. This toolkit contains our last research report—Interdisciplinary Primary Health Care: Finding the Answers—and a vast warehouse containing tools that have been designed across the country to support interdisciplinary practices. The Collaboration Toolkit offers practical tips and tools such as checklists, vision and policy statements, floor plans, transfer of function agreements, and many others. It is a must-read for anyone considering—or involved in—interdisciplinary care.

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