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Hard-Nosed About Physician Teamwork

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, May 16, 2013

One incarnation of Spectrum Health's multidisciplinary teams is the cardiothoracic critical care unit. These patients have "persistent, disabling symptoms" and they "may keep coming in and out of the hospital," says Dickinson. The clinic provides a range of services including heart transplants, mechanical circulatory support, and an acute heart failure program. It also includes a multidisciplinary "shock team" to rapidly assess patient conditions.

The cardiac team is critical to Spectrum Health's success, and its multidisciplinary approach is essential to make the unit work, Dickinson says. (Cardiac care's significance and its role as a growing margin contributor is reflected in the March 2013 HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report.)

To become a member of the Spectrum cardiothoracic team, physicians must "exhibit behaviors that show they can do multidisciplinary care," Dickinson says. The unit comprises eight physician members, nurses, social workers, and other staff. A quality common to each doctor within the unit is that they have a "healthy disrespect for themselves and realize they need all of us to get involved," Dickinson says. By "healthy disrespect," he means that these physicians express confidence in their individual abilities while acknowledging that each of their voices isn't the only one, and doesn't always have to be the loudest in the room. The team seeks uniformity of purpose. Some physicians "have come in and have left over the years, based on their personality and willingness to work," Dickinson says. (He would not reveal how many physicians have been asked to leave the unit.)

"We are captains of the ship, coordinating care with other specialties to make it work," Dickinson says.

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2 comments on "Hard-Nosed About Physician Teamwork"


Gus Geraci (5/21/2013 at 1:37 PM)
Forcing a style of practice needs proof that it consistently ensures better quality. Be wary of too much enthusiasm about an idea until you prove it works all the time - and not that you're getting regression to a mean. Management by committee doesn't always work for all. Some captains may be better alone, while others need the team. Use data, not conformity as the decision maker.

Dr P (5/16/2013 at 5:10 PM)
This approach is destined to fail.