What are the benefits of having interdisciplinary teams in healthcare practices?

For many common health problems, treatment will be handled by a team of doctors and nurses. A patient will often receive support from a number of health professionals with a variety of specialties. But why are so many nursing problems taken care of by a team of people working together? What makes having a team so important for people who need an extra level of healthcare?

There are plenty of benefits to having a team of medical professionals working on the same case, and most of these benefits are the same for any team regardless of the field. Some teams, however, have specific benefits depending on the interdisciplinary nature of the team.  

Who is on an interdisciplinary team?

This can be extremely hard to answer because often the team that is assembled in order to solve a problem is dependent on what the problem is. Often, those problems are specific to each patient and their needs, so there isn’t one lineup that fits every single scenario. However, interdisciplinary teams are traditionally made up of two types of medical personnel—people who are close to the patient and who have prior knowledge about the person who is being treated, and people who are experts in the field.

For example, if a patient is dealing with a problem in their eyes that requires a team to handle it, likely the primary care physician is going to be involved, along with an eye doctor and possibly a surgeon, as well as some other team members. Interdisciplinary teams are small and focused on tight-knit communication, so that information can be passed back and forth without too much trouble.

They aren’t just experts who are all treating the various needs of one patient, but rather a connected group that is designed around working together and complementing one another in order to reach a shared goal. They share experiences and talk to the patient along the way, until they reach an end goal everyone is happy with.

Why are interdisciplinary teams so important?

There are several medical reasons why interdisciplinary teams are so important. For one, the population of the world is getting older and older, and as people live longer they take on different health conditions. Older people might need help managing their multiple complex health issues, and that means having multiple specialists. 

Additionally, while many doctors and nurses choose to be general practitioners or otherwise take a general view of healthcare, there are quite a lot of specialists out there who are focused on different medical needs. For patients who have a lot of medical issues that a general doctor might not be able to help with, the experts who have more knowledge as well as the ability to correctly apply that knowledge are extremely important.

Interdisciplinary teams are focused on streamlining treatment, increasing communication, and at the end of the day, providing for their patient. However, an interdisciplinary team isn’t the same as a multidisciplinary team which has each specialist focusing on their field of expertise, and their field alone, without communicating with the other team members or coordinating care plans with one another. 

The benefits of an interdisciplinary team

Working with a team made up of a diverse group of professionals can result in a number of benefits for patients. Of course, the biggest benefit is going to be the improved efficiency and effectiveness in getting patients back to full health, but there are some other ones. Here are just a few of them.

Improved care and more favorable outcomes

The more eyes that are on a problem, the better the care will be. Having different professionals looking at the issue a patient faces allows for the problem to be seen through a wide range of angles and disciplines, and each team member is going to be able to notice things specific to their field of work. Then they can share this information with the other team members and provide comprehensive treatment that will address all of the symptoms of the patient.

The more eyes that are on the problem and the more people who are focused on the issue, the more likely that the problem is going to be solved.

The likelihood of errors is reduced

As much as we hate to see it, especially in the medical field, mistakes are going to happen. Things are going to be misdiagnosed, and overlooked, and people are going to be prescribed medical drugs and procedures that they might not need. If a patient is seeing multiple providers for the same problem, then they can occasionally get prescribed drugs or have their charts looked at, all without one provider considering the others and the work they have already put in.

However, with teams of interdisciplinary workers all in contact with one another, the various providers can make sure to consider one another without providing conflicting medication and advice that will harm a patient. Instead, every single doctor involved gets to see the whole picture of the patient.

Faster and more thorough treatment

Additionally, with so many eyes on the problem trying to solve the issue, this leads to much faster treatment for everyone involved. Communication is highly prioritized whenever teams of different doctors and nurses are gathered, so all new information is understood, analyzed, and applied as quickly as it can. This can eliminate waiting time and allow the various different parts of the team to move together as one whole without any issues.

Medicine takes on a holistic perspective

Interdisciplinary teams also more easily allow for a holistic approach. Many medical professionals and institutions are learning that the previous method of simply treating the symptom and not the disease doesn’t work as well as it used to because there are so many other factors available that can impact even the smallest health condition. Having a team of doctors, nurses, and professionals all working together to provide a big-picture view of the patient and their medical history can be extremely helpful because it allows everyone to communicate better and treat patients holistically.

Care that is 100% focused on the patient is going to be beneficial to everyone, especially because the patient is involved in every single aspect of their own care, and they can speak up, be heard, have conversations, and contribute to what decisions are made.

There is a clear end goal

Finally, the main benefit of an interdisciplinary team is that it is designed around the end goal of making the patient healthier. A patient-centered, outcome-based approach is vital in the actions of healthcare teams to remain focused and efficient. With an interdisciplinary team that is focused on a clear end goal, patients benefit from efficient practice, meaning their treatment time is reduced and they can be back to full health as quickly as possible. 

How do doctors and nurses focus on being part of a team?

One of the biggest things that can cause issues for doctors and nurses is that they need to learn to collaborate with other people outside of their hospital or even outside of their areas of expertise. Effective teamwork can be one of the biggest benefits of making sure that an interdisciplinary effort runs smoothly. But what skills can best benefit a team?


Communicating about the patients’ results and making sure that all information is available to everyone is going to be one of the biggest benefits to a large interdisciplinary team. Staff will need to work with each other in order to effectively make sure that all the information needed is communicated and that updates are done in a timely manner.

For example, if a team member is waiting on lab results the person running the lab will need to ensure that they are communicating and providing necessary updates. A person running a lab needs to ensure that all relevant team members are made aware of all relevant information in a timely manner.

A willingness to learn and to admit when the expert is needed

For many doctors and nurses, they went to school, studied hard, and spent a lot of time on becoming what they are today. They know a lot and they apply their knowledge well. But for many doctors, it can be very hard to admit that they don’t know everything, and it can be even harder for them to admit that their general knowledge just isn’t enough. 

Having the awareness to know when to bring in an expert and when to ask for some help can be extremely important in an interdisciplinary team. Learning from experts with specific knowledge is an important process, so staff should never be afraid to ask for help and to get an expert opinion.

A willingness to be the leader, but also to pass the torch

In most interdisciplinary teams, the leadership role is often determined by who has the most experience at the time. For example, if the interdisciplinary team is taking on a cancer patient and working to provide the highest standard of care as the patient enters chemotherapy, then the radiologist might take the lead because their skills are most relevant. Once the patient has their treatments scheduled, the leadership role might go toward the general caregiver as they help the patient adjust to the treatment schedule and side effects.

Having one team member take leadership can prevent the open communication that makes the interdisciplinary team so effective, so don’t be afraid to hold the leadership torch when your field of expertise comes into play, and then give the torch away to the other people who are experts in their fields.

Interdisciplinary teams should cover a wide variety of disciplines

Finally, interdisciplinary teams should who cover a wide range of disciplines and skill sets. It’s important to have a diverse group that is going to bring different ways of thinking to the table. This avoids the problems that come with a hive mind. Teams should have lots of experts and people with degrees that celebrate creative thinking. 

The University of Indianapolis is an example of an institution that not only teaches a wide range of disciplines but will also prepare students with the communication skills necessary to work in an interdisciplinary team. For example, a practice nurse with a master’s of science in nursing adult gerontology (MSN-AGPCNP) acquired at UIndy will have all the necessary advanced medical knowledge and nursing ethics education to seamlessly enter an interdisciplinary team and make a difference in patient outcomes. 

Interdisciplinary teams are the future of medicine

Finally, with all the people in the world who are living longer and who are also dealing with a wide variety of health conditions, interdisciplinary teams are going to become increasingly necessary. Additionally, interdisciplinary teams are going to be useful, as doctors and nurses start to become more specialized in what they do and how they help people. 

So, it makes sense for doctors and nurses to learn how to work together on interdisciplinary teams now because the skills they use and the different people they work with are going to better help them in the future as this becomes more and more commonplace in the healthcare industry. Plus, it will work toward the overall goal of improving patient outcomes.

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