Abstract: Assessing Communication Effectiveness in Interprofessional Healthcare Teams

◆ Kelsey Binion, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis

In clinical encounters, healthcare decision-making is more than a cognitive process; it is also a communicative process defined by the relationships and interactions developed between providers and patients. Further, with the American healthcare system in a fragmented and uncoordinated system, interprofessional collaborative practice and team-based care has been identified as integral components of healthcare reform to impact patient-centered care. Interprofessional education and practice is a collaborative approach in equipping health professional students with the skills to become effective team members to improve patient outcomes. Thus, health professional students participate in interprofessional events, like simulations, to allow them an opportunity to practice challenging conversations with one another and patients to improve their communication skills.

This research study used a quantitative approach to identify communication behaviors that influence healthcare teams’ effectiveness. Two-hundred and twenty-two students participated in an interprofessional simulation at a Midwestern university. Ninety-two standardized patients assessed the students’ communication skills and their ability to collaborate as a team. The study had two research questions: (1) Do standardized patients perceive the students to communicate with the patient collaboratively instead of individually?; and, (2) How effective is the team’s communication from the first encounter to the second encounter?

Students participated in a two-hour simulation, in which they were presented a case and developed a care plan for the patient, who was a standardized patient (SP). The SP assessed the students using the CARE Patient Feedback form (Mercer, Maxwell, Heaney, & Watts, 2004), which includes 10 Likert-type questions (e.g., patient’s comfort level, communication, feeling of care and compassion) to understand the therapeutic relationship within the consultation. Data analysis was completed on 92 forms.

The results for the first research question found there was a 25% increase in teams functioning and performing collaboratively rather than individually. Working independently, while in a team environment, decreased by 57%. SPs often used words like “teamwork,” “worked well together,” and “group effort” to describe the collaborative nature of the encounter. Further, for research question two, each CARE Patient Feedback Measure item had a significant difference between the first and second encounter. For a summative score of the 10 questions, there was a significant difference in scores for students interacting and conversing with the standardized patient in first (M = 143.00, SD = 9.888) and second (M = 174.80, SD = 5.371) encounters; t(9) = -16.135, p = 0.000.

The study provides a realistic look into how health profession students respond to patients in an interprofessional setting and answers the call for more exposure to this type of healthcare model to better prepare future clinicians. Communication affects the quality of care as well as the patient’s safety; thus, this skill must be practiced and refined before interacting with patients. Healthcare culture will never evolve if future providers are not equipped with the communication skills and knowledge to implement a collaborative model into the system, and this study suggests that this simulation approach with interprofessional providers is effective for practicing this skill.