Thursday, May 10, 2007

Collaborative Patient Care

Surowiecki writes in The Difference Difference Makes, "expertise beyond a minimal level is of little value in forecasting change."

In the developed world of Japan, Europe, and North America, there is a rise of health care professionalism across many fields beyond a simple college degree. Physical therapy comes in the flavor of a PhD. Nursing is rising in its clinical specialties and its own Doctor of Nursing Practice. Pharmacy has transition from the B.S. in Pharmacy to the Doctor of Pharmacy programs. What value is there in this sum of rising specialized expertise?

McMaster writes in Design for Emergence, "Distributed knowledge emerges from interaction, rather than from any single point of storage". What I take this to mean is that the totality of collaborative knowledge and understanding is greater than the sum of the individual contributions or any one individual. I see this emerging in health care.

The rising sum of specialized expertise in health care is only valuable when these specialties care for patients collaboratively. In fact studies confirm this. Many randomized clinical trials show that these collaborative health care teams raise patient outcomes and reduce costs of care.
Take for example, the nurse, doctor, and pharmacist relationship. The key word for each profession is prognosis, diagnosis, and pharmacotherapy, for nurses, doctors, and pharmacists respectively. Each profession specializes in one of these three categories, and know just enough to understand the other two. Yet working together a patient gets the best judgment on their prognosis or future outcomes, the diagnosis of their problem, and the optimal drug regimen at the lowest cost.

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