“Interprofessional teams.” If you’ve not yet heard the phrase mentioned during workplace meetings or classroom discussions, chances are that you will soon. So, what’s the story behind the helping professions’ latest buzzword? What exactly does it mean?
Interprofessional healthcare teams draw on providers from a broad range of health professions. From doctors to dentists, physical therapists to social workers, professionals work together to create an individualized plan for a patient. Doing so allows for more person-centered and family-centered health care. “Interprofessional teams allow practitioners to be proactive in guiding care, rather than reactive in treating illness,” explained Associate Professor Marilyn Luptak.
Though mental health has typically not been a priority for patients or providers in healthcare arenas, mental health factors play a huge role in wellness. “Medical care and treatment is not the only component and often not the most important component of a proactive, team-based, family-centered care plan,” said Dr. Luptak. “Social determinants of health are often more important than the physical factors.”
This is why including social workers on these teams is vital to the process. Troy Andersen, director of the College of Social Work’s W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging, expounded, “A successful interprofessional team needs to include someone who has a mental health background and can assess mental health issues that medical doctors aren’t equipped to handle. Social work is one of the least understood and, when utilized, most appreciated aspects of complete patient care.” Mental health care providers have a unique ability to provide a more complete understanding of who the patient is.
This need for holistic understanding of individual needs is especially important for older adult populations. “There is no other time in a person’s life when health and mental health are more intertwined than with older adults, and no other time when they are more neglected,” said Dr. Andersen.
“There are older adults at every level of the health spectrum,” added Dr. Luptak. “Some are thriving, some have serious, chronic issues. There is no one plan or one provider that can address all the needs of every individual. Interprofessional teams address these individualized needs.”
Drs. Andersen and Luptak emphasized that these teams don’t just happen. But with a growing recognition in healthcare systems that patients aren’t getting the care they need, interprofessional teams are becoming increasingly important in shaping patient care.
The Goodwill Initiatives on Aging will explore these and related issues during this spring’s Interprofessional Seminar Series on Aging – Spring 2018, with eight presentations focusing on the Complexities of Geriatric Assessment: Why We Need Interprofessional Teams. The series will highlight the pressing need to remove professional silos in geriatric care and will include insights from professionals working in a variety of health care-related fields, such as dentistry, nutrition, medicine, pharmacy, and other human service professions. The first event, “Introduction to Interprofessional Assessment,” will be presented by Drs. Luptak and Andersen on Thursday, January 11, 2018, from 12:00-1:15 pm in the College of Social Work. All seminars are free, open to the public, and approved for one NASW-endorsed CEU each.