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Teamwork for a stronger practice

Teamwork for a stronger practice

With the typical one-on-one interaction between practitioner and patient, teamwork may not seem the highest priority. However, in the same way that it “takes a village to raise a child”, it takes an entire team to deliver the best patient care. Healthcare design and fit-out company Evoke Projects examines the role of teamwork in building a stronger practice.

Patient care touchpoints throughout the practice

There is a great deal of research showing that teamwork and communication are vital to positive patient outcomes. Communication failures are often at the heart of adverse events and healthcare complaints. Considering the potential ‘touchpoints’ of patient care throughout the healthcare practice, it is easy to see how the team has to work together for success:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Reception check-in
  • Practitioner assessment or treatment
  • Medical notes
  • Referral for tests
  • Referral to other practitioners
  • Availability of equipment, supplies and medical aids
  • Recording and communicating test results
  • Recalls and reminders
  • Payments, Medicare and health fund liaison

Togetherness is the T in Teamwork

Teamwork requires the team to be together both figuratively and literally. This can present challenges in the current climate. If staff are suffering from burnout, they are more likely to be absent from work, putting additional pressure on the rest of the team.

Katie Kay, Vice President, Academics – Healthcare @ Emeritus, and Danika Bowen, Vice President, Operations – Healthcare @ Emeritus have some great tips for preventing burnout.1

Short-term ideas:

  • Be more active about offering mental health resources by promoting your mental health programs.
  • Work to ensure your colleagues have their basic needs met including the right tools, supplies, professional development and support in the workplace.
  • Promote workplace and departmental connectivity.
  • Ensure colleagues have scheduled time off.

Long-term ideas:

  • Think systemically by considering ways to improve the system and framework. Remove unnecessary bureaucracy, record-keeping and minutiae.
  • Promote a culture of efficient leadership through additional training and support. Strong leaders create positive impacts on their teams. Their work and contributions create a trickle-down effect that improves morale, performance and patient outcomes.
  • Little things can make a big difference in a team member’s mental health. A few more days of Paid Time Off a year (or a more flexible PTO policy), more frequent breaks, even better on-site dining options. Show you don’t just “talk the talk” about team morale, but you “walk the walk,” too.

How your healthcare design and fit-out can support communication and teamwork

Communication will be improved in a healthcare fit-out that supports face-to-face interactions. A recent research article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported the best healthcare design factors for communication were:2

  • Spaces with more integrated overall layout
  • Workspaces with accessible shared team spaces
  • Locations that are more accessible to all other spaces
  • Locating individuals in close physical distance, e.g., same floor or corridor or co-located in the same space and proximate to each other’s workstations
  • Creating visual connections among individuals, such as visibility between workstations

The same article has interesting primary care clinic case studies looking at different healthcare design and fit-out models. The results showed how important the healthcare fit-out was to teamwork, especially during the pandemic. The researchers found that during the pandemic: “Safety precautions such as physical distancing and separation, transition to virtual communication, and removal of visual cues for communication and awareness, negatively affected staff members’ teamwork, including their perception of communication and overall teamwork”.

The researchers also have a Design and Teamwork Model for Teamwork in Primary Care Settings. It shows how healthcare design aspects (e.g., overall clinic layout, shared spaces, partition height) and environmental attributes (e.g., visibility, accessibility, audibility, privacy) feed into the opportunity for teamwork. The full healthcare Design and Teamwork Model can be found here.

Several healthcare design and medical fit-out principles were recommended by the authors for improved teamwork in primary care settings.

  • Provide physical spaces where informal learning discussions can occur among staff members, and provide artifacts and surfaces where those informal notes can be transferred. For instance, designating physical surfaces inside the clinic area with some privacy (especially from patients) for physically sharing and transferring such informal information might help staff members gain a shared understanding of patients.
  • Provide physical environments that allow staff members to (visually) check the location and situation of other staff members, even if the spaces are isolated for safety. For instance, transparent partitions or windows between separated spaces might allow for physical distance and separation but maintain a visual connection among staff members, which would lead to an improved awareness of what others are doing.
  • Provide a designated space for individual, focused work proximate to the main team spaces. The private and quiet space can allow staff members to be away from other team members and work without interruptions while being closely located to other team members.
  • Emphasise ‘teamness’ by visualising the team members and their availability through design. Provide shared team rooms where team members can work together, with shared service and amenity spaces near the team rooms.
  • Provide a designated area with good cleaning, ventilation and adequate space for staff members to safely engage in social activities, especially during the pandemic.
  • Provide monitors, whiteboards or bulletin boards that allow for persistent information to be posted about patients and team performance and activities, with attention to privacy.

For more healthcare design and fit-out ideas that help your team to be stronger together, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

2. Lim, L.; Zimring, C.M.; DuBose, J.R.; Lee, J.; Stroebel, R.J.; Matthews, M.R. Designing for Effective and Safe Multidisciplinary Primary Care Teamwork: Using the Time of COVID-19 as a Case Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 8758.

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