The concept of teamwork is ingrained in the framework of our society. We see it in all walks of life, in our businesses, in sports, in political organizations, and more recently, in healthcare.
Although the field of medicine is as old as life itself, the concept of healthcare professionals working together in a true multi-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary fashion is relatively new. Traditional healthcare models involve separate specialists working as separate entities. Patients are seen, often by their primary care physician first, and then referred to whichever specialist is most relevant. The problem with this model, however, is that communication between these groups tends to be quite low.
The multi-disciplinary team approach aims to bridge this communication gap by aligning healthcare professionals in tandem, rather than in a hierarchical, top-down manner. The system works when each member of the team could be either the first or last entry into the organization. Feasibility of this system requires each member of the team to not only understand their own skills and the limitations of their specialties, but also those of their colleagues.
Although multi-disciplinary health care models are now taught mainstream in most of our medical and health professional schools, the implementation in medical practices is quite rare. At the core of a multi-disciplinary team, healthcare professionals purposefully and consciously engage themselves in a long-term relationship based on trust and the understanding of each team member's skills and qualifications.
Occasionally we find these types of professional relationships between two groups, for example a primary care physician and a physical therapist. But to find a team with multiple groups (i.e. primary care, surgery, pain management, physical therapy, psychology, etc.) is rare and exceptional.
Multi-disciplinary teams meet a 21st-century demand for excellence. We now know that most patients require multi-modal care to meet their goals. That is, multiple disciplines with multiple types of interventions, all functioning simultaneously, is a far more efficient and effective model than cherry-picking interventions one at a time.
As healthcare consumers we should search the market, we should shop around for the best possible options available. You would not buy a house, or a car, without first looking at a number of options, and when it comes to something as important as healthcare, you ought to do the same. Imagine a system where your first visit could be any kind of medical professional, and from there you would have access to as many or as few specialties required to meet your needs. However rare, teams such as this do exist, and just as healthcare professionals should strive to meet this standard, healthcare consumers should strive to seek out the most advanced options available in their communities.