Singular doctor-patient relationships may become a thing of the past, now that more studies are highlighting the benefits of team-based care.

In recent years, health care has become more patient-centered. Now, multidisciplinary health care teams work together to give you the best treatment and prevent you from getting sick.

Various studies have shown that the more medical professionals are involved in your care, the more likely it is that you’ll recover or learn coping skills to deal with your illness or injury. It’s now common to have nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists all involved in a holistic approach to your care.

Some of the benefits of this approach include:

  • Reducing anxiety because your care is being managed by a team
  • Greater likelihood that your care will be delivered in accordance with national standards and clinical practice guidelines
  • Increasing your satisfaction with your care
  • Increasing your access to information as well as psychosocial and practical support

How it works

Medical organizations such as Keck Medicine of USC’s Lung Cancer Program practice this approach. You as the patient are the main focus and the responsibility of every member of the team, who are required to carry out your care with mutual communication and respect.

To ensure you’re getting the best follow-up care, USC specialists in chest radiology, thoracic surgery, pulmonary medicine and oncology review your history, risk factors and imaging findings, then provide you and your primary physician with their recommendations.

“The days when a single doctor practicing independently can care for cancer are over,” said Jorge J. Nieva, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “Cancer care requires a team. Oncologists, surgeons, pharmacists, pathologists, radiologists, pulmonologists, nurses, dieticians, social workers, care navigators and rehabilitative specialists are all necessary to provide the kind of care that makes for the best patient outcomes.”

Examples of team-based care in practice

This approach greatly benefits such areas as geriatric medicine, as older patients often suffer from a variety of syndromes and illnesses at the same time, demanding the input of doctors and nurses, as well as psychologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists. Each member of the geriatric team helps manage the different therapies and reduces unnecessary pharmacological interactions.

The occupational therapist, for example, helps with the assessment and treatment of problems in the daily lives of seniors. The OT is also the first to witness subtle and important changes in the patient’s behavior and abilities. Involving an entire team can help prevent injuries, such as falls, and delirium as well as in end-of-life care.

Another example of the benefit of team-based care is with patients who have rheumatic diseases. Registered nurses often play a more important role here, acting as the “first responders” as they put together your history and schedule physical exams. This helps determine your initial diagnosis and general health status, recommend therapies and help your family figure out an appropriate care plan.

And in improving your psychological health as you deal with illness or injury, physical therapists can play a key role. Physical therapists are able to use touch and relaxation exercises to give you a sense of well being that supports the treatment provided by the rest of the medical team.

A winning approach

In a team-based care model, patient-care responsibilities often are shared among the members of a team, allowing doctors and their staff to better connect and communicate with you, the patient. The ultimate goal: giving you better health care, and increasing efficiency and productivity. A team-based approach can serve you better by changing the culture from “my patient” to “our patient.”

By Ramin Zahed