one of its ten rules and in another rule calls attention to the need for provider communication and collaboration to achieve this goal:

Cooperation among clinicians. Clinicians and institutions should actively collaborate and communicate to ensure an appropriate exchange of information and coordination of care.


Shared knowledge and the free flow of information. Patients should have unfettered access to their own medical information and to clinical knowledge. Clinicians and patients should communicate effectively and share information. (IOM, 2001:62)

These two rules highlight two prerequisites to coordination of care: communication and collaboration across providers and within and across institutions. Communication exists when each clinician or treatment provider caring for a patient shares needed treatment information with other clinicians and providers caring for the patient. Information can be shared verbally; manually in writing; or through information technology, such as a shared electronic health record. Collaboration is multidimensional and requires the aggregation of several behaviors, including the following:

  • A shared understanding of goals and roles—Collaboration is enhanced by a shared understanding of an agreed-upon collective goal (Gittell et al., 2000) and clarity regarding each clinician’s role. Role confusion and role conflict are frequent barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration (Rice, 2000).

  • Effective communication—Multiple studies have identified effective communication as a key feature of collaboration (Baggs and Schmitt, 1988; Knaus et al., 1986; Schmitt, 2001; Shortell et al., 1994). “Effective” is defined variously as frequent, timely, understandable, accurate, and satisfying (Gittell et al., 2000; Shortell et al., 1994).

  • Shared decision making—In shared decision making, problems and strategies are openly discussed (Baggs and Schmitt, 1997; Baggs et al., 1999; Rice, 2000; Schmitt, 2001), and consensus is often used to arrive at a decision. Disagreements over treatment approaches and philosophies, roles and responsibilities, and ethical questions are common in health care settings. Positive ways of addressing these inevitable differences are identified as a key component of effective caregiver collaboration (Shortell et al., 1994).

It is important to note that, according to health services researchers, collaboration is not a dichotomous variable, simply present or absent. Rather, it is present to varying degrees (Schmitt, 2001).



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