Interprofessional collaboration in healthcare with SharePoint Intranet
If you’re a decision-maker in the healthcare sector, you surely know about the industry’s increasing recognition of the need for greater collaboration across disciplines, and how it can potentially improve outcomes for patients. You’re probably also aware of other benefits of interprofessional collaboration (IPC) in healthcare, such as cost and error reduction and the easing of workloads for medical professionals.
Whether you are up to speed with the concept or not, its inevitable introduction to your organization will surely require significant change. It is not only about changes of medical culture, but also about the relevant technology to support core collaborative competencies and make IPC executable.
In this article, you will find a brief overview of the IPC landscape in healthcare, a summary of benefits and challenges involved in implementation, and a discussion surrounding the value of technological solutions like a SharePoint intranet to support the transition to IPC practice.
A Reminder of the Value of Interprofessional Collaboration
The healthcare profession has traditionally comprised siloed disciplines, with medical office staff, nurses, physicians, therapists, and other actors working in isolation, without any integrated effort to further patient outcomes.
That’s no dirty secret of the medical profession — it’s a universally recognized issue, oft-cited as a root cause of errors in diagnosis, treatment, and patient care.
What Is Interprofessional Collaboration?
Interprofessional collaboration is little more than the introduction of authentic teamwork among the various healthcare disciplines, aimed at improving outcomes, reducing workloads, and transitioning from physician-centered to patient-centered healthcare.
In the face of medical reforms and rising costs, IPC will be a vital development, necessary to:
- Counter a healthcare-provider shortage (expected to reach a shortfall of up to 105,000 physicians by 2030)
- Eliminate errors that can and do result in unnecessary suffering and loss of patient lives
- Create a more proactive ethos in which whole communities receive a focus on improved health and wellness
Lest you’re concerned that a degree of rhetoric is present in this assertion, a Johns Hopkins study indicates that up to 250,000 patient fatalities a year in the United States are attributable to medical errors. While many consider that statistic to be controvertible, few would disagree that even one such death is too many and that fatal errors are inexcusable.
IPC Benefits: The Evidence
IPC has the potential to make medical errors more avoidable and eliminate many of the causal factors, such as communication bottlenecks, a lack of specialist expertise and knowledge, and stress and exhaustion among hard-working medical professionals.
According to Lesley Bainbridge of the University of British Columbia, there are some other valuable IPC benefits, including improved health outcomes and use of clinical resources, increased health professional satisfaction, and better working environment with less conflicts between medical professionals.
The Role of the Intranet in IPC
Of course, for a team-based approach to healthcare to work effectively, professionals from different disciplinary areas must embrace a change in culture and receive training and development to get used to collaboration. Education is vital to enable scenarios where, for example, pharmacists and physicians work together with patients to determine optimal treatment regimens.
At the same time, in the fast-paced healthcare environment, physicians, nurses, specialists, and other stakeholders must be equipped with tools to help them collaborate remotely — and that’s where intranet solutions like SharePoint come into their own.
By implementing an intranet solution, you can provide your healthcare teams with an online working environment, enabling seamless collaboration between professionals, even when they are not able to work together in person.
You might even consider tasking a team of SharePoint consultants (or specialists in your chosen solution if you prefer a different platform) to extend your healthcare intranet access to patients via a portal. After all, patient involvement is a central principle of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare.
Some Successes with Intranet for IPC
Many progressive healthcare organizations have deployed SharePoint or similar intranet solutions to support collaboration across disciplines.
- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia implemented an intranet to support its 14,000 staff. It includes features such as areas “for your action” and “for your information,” a centralized knowledge base, and access to all tools, forms, and applications used by the hospital.
- The Mayo Clinic’s nursing department intranet has helped nurses in various fields of medicine to reduce the time spent finding information for patient care from 15 minutes to just five.
- The Provincial Health Services Authority of British Columbia in Canada overcame one of the main challenges of intranet deployment — securing end-user adoption — by involving administrators, leaders, and clinical personnel in their solution design. Within 12 weeks, the organization had a fully functioning intranet prototype, and less than two months after the go-live recorded more than 57,000 unique visits from employees.
Critical Considerations for Intranets in Healthcare
While the intranet successes mentioned above are encouraging, challenges do exist, and there is no shortage of horror stories that testify to the fact. Although these may not be specific to healthcare, it is an industry to which the same principles apply as any other.
SharePoint implementations can be complicated, so help from specialist consulting providers is always advisable. Also, there are two or three considerations to place high on your agenda if you choose SharePoint to aid interprofessional collaboration.
SharePoint Alone May Not Be Enough
Firstly, try not to think of SharePoint, or any intranet platform, as a panacea. IPC requires a range of technologies to support it effectively, and you will need to think about integrating tools such as e-signature software and OCR to provide a complete solution.
User Training Is Critical
Secondly, you should budget for a thorough program of training in the use of your intranet. An IPC program in which technology training is not prioritized is almost certain to be plagued by adoption issues and may even reduce, rather than increase, productivity.
Keep It HIPAA-Friendly
Perhaps most importantly, given the stringency of HIPAA requirements, you will need to place a heavy emphasis on security factors such as authorizations and permissions. While data security protection can add to the challenges of a SharePoint implementation, it’s an element that must not be overlooked in the healthcare domain, as to do so is to invite expensive trouble in the form of HIPAA violations and potential lawsuits.
Digitization Is Key to Effective IPC
Without digital technology, interprofessional collaboration in healthcare is nearly impossible. Medical professionals from discrete disciplines tend to be highly mobile and too busy to spend inordinate amounts of time in one another’s presence.
When integrated with complementary technologies, a well-implemented SharePoint solution can help substantially in supporting collaborative teams, enabling them to communicate continuously, share knowledge, and minimize the duplication of effort.
If you get your intranet solution right, its implementation will be an invaluable step toward a new, more productive, and less error-prone approach to patient care. That’s a worthy endeavor indeed — and one that will be welcomed by your administrators, physicians, management teams, and patients alike.
Written by: Sandra Lupanova
Sandra Lupanova is SharePoint and Office 365 Evangelist at Itransition, a software development and IT consulting company headquartered in Denver. Sandra focuses on the SharePoint and Office 365 capabilities, challenges that companies face while adopting these platforms, as well as shares practical tips on how to improve SharePoint and Office 365 deployments and take maximum benefit out of them. Employee-centric, cost-effective SharePoint, Office 365 and Microsoft 365 solutions with positive user adoption are key topics that Sandra covers in her articles.