Interprofessional teamwork in comprehensive primary healthcare services: Findings from a mixed methods study
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This article draws on data from a 5-year project that examined the effectiveness of Comprehensive primary healthcare (CPHC) in local communities. A hallmark of CPHC services is interprofessional teamwork. Drawing from this study, our article presents factors that enabled, or hindered, healthcare teams working interprofessionally in Australian primary healthcare (PHC) services. The article reports on the experiences of teams working in six Australian PHC services (four managed by state governments, one non-government sexual health organisation, and one Aboriginal community-controlled health service) during a time of significant health sector restructure. Findings are drawn from two key methods: an online survey of practitioners and managers (n = 154), and interviews with managers and practitioners (n = 60) from the six study sites. The majority of survey respondents worked with other health professionals in their service to provide interprofessional care to clients. Processes included formal team meetings, case conferencing, referring clients to other health professionals if needed, informal communication with other health professionals about clients, and team-based delivery of care. A range of interrelated factors affected interprofessional work at the services, from contextual, organisational, processual, and relational domains. Funding cuts and policy changes that saw a reorientation and re-medicalisation of South Australian services undermined interprofessional work, while a shared CPHC culture and commitment among some staff was helpful in resisting some of these effects. The co-location of services was a factor in PHC teams working interprofessionally and not only enabled some PHC teams to work more interprofessionally but also created barriers to interprofessional teamwork through disruption resulting from restructuring of services. Our study indicates the importance of decision makers taking into account the potential effects of policy and structural changes on interprofessional teamwork. Decision makers should strive to minimise unintended negative effects of changes on the functioning of interprofessional teams.
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