Team-based care will be focus of national health education center

HRSA is accepting applications and plans to award a five-year, $800,000 grant by Sept. 30.

By Carolyne Krupa — Posted July 9, 2012

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A national center is being established to serve as a central resource for programs teaching the next generation of doctors and other health care professionals how to provide team-based care.

The goal of the Coordinating Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice is to bring physicians, nurses and other health professionals together to accelerate the health care system’s transformation to an integrated system of coordinated, collaborative, team-based care, said Janet Heinrich, DrPH, RN. She is associate administrator of the Bureau of Health Professions of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. To reach that goal, interprofessional education — in which medical students learn alongside students in other health professions — must become the new norm, she said.

The effort is being driven by a shift toward more team-based care through the development of accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes and transitional care models, Heinrich said.

“The creation of this center addresses the need for our health work force to embrace interprofessional models of care to meet the needs of our evolving health care delivery system,” she said.

The push for the center is the result of a public-private partnership between HRSA and four major foundations. The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the John A. Hartford Foundation together have committed $8.6 million to the effort.

The location of the center has yet to be determined. HRSA is accepting applications through July 20 from institutions interested in housing the facility and plans to award a five-year, $800,000 grant by Sept. 30.

The initiative has been in the works for more than a year, said Macy Foundation President George Thibault, MD. Learning to collaborate with other professions should be an integral part of any medical school, as well as any health professional’s education. Though many schools offer interprofessional training programs, their design and effectiveness vary greatly, he said.

“This center will accelerate the process and elevate it,” Dr. Thibault said.

Preparing for collaborative care

Despite the growth in interprofessional training in recent years, the vast majority of health professionals are never exposed to collaborative care until they enter the work force, said Maryjoan D. Ladden, PhD, RN, senior program officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The result is that hospitals, clinics and other practice sites have to retrain those individuals to work in teams, she said.

“We believe this center can catalyze efforts to prepare health professionals for collaboration by, for example, identifying best practices in interprofessional education and team-based care, and spreading them across the country,” Ladden said.

The center will have multiple goals, including providing guidance, support and research on interprofessional education and collaborative practice, Heinrich said. It will help develop new training programs, support existing programs and identify those institutions that can serve as models for others. It also will help schools find ways to overcome the many challenges associated with developing interprofessional programs, she said.

Establishing such programs requires the buy-in of senior leadership to address scheduling and financing issues, Ladden said.

“Interprofessional education takes significant commitment from all levels of academic leadership in medical, nursing, pharmacy and other health professional schools to make it work,” she said.

There are significant logistical challenges, Dr. Thibault said. Schools have different calendars, and different professions take varying approaches to teaching the same material, he said.

“Most of our faculty have never experienced interprofessional training because we’ve never done it before,” Dr. Thibault said. “We’re not saying that it’s going to be easy; that’s why we have this center. The goal is improving the health of the public. It’s all about preparing people to work in more effective ways.”

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