education as what “occurs when two or more professions learn with, from, and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care” (CAIPE, 2002).
This concept has gone through a series of boom and bust cycles, observed Lyons. At the beginning of the 20th century, physicians in Boston began moving into hospitals and brought together the community of educators, social workers, and others with whom they had worked outside hospitals. After World War II, multidisciplinary teams in hospitals worked on health issues among veterans and the rapidly growing U.S. population. During the Great Society era of the 1960s, community health centers played a role in fostering interprofessional education.
In the 1970s, federal support for federally qualified health centers echoed the themes contained in the 1972 report by the Institute of Medicine Educating for the Health Team (IOM, 1972). After another lull in the 1980s, a series of reports in the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century renewed the emphasis on interprofessional education. “We are seeing now a much larger effort from more people than there has been in the past,” said Lyons.
Evidence of Effectiveness
Research has demonstrated that interprofessional education delivered in a variety of clinical settings is well received by participants and can enable students and professionals to learn knowledge and skills necessary for collaboration. There is also some evidence that team-based practice can have a positive effect on care. The research base is not yet as strong as it needs to be, Lyons stated, but it has steadily moved away from attitudes toward behaviors and outcomes.
At the same time, predictions of physician shortages, the aging of the health workforce, and growing recognition of the behavioral origins of illness have reemphasized the importance of interprofessional care. Lyons said that he expects this emphasis to endure. The federal government has again recognized interprofessional care as an important component of the health care system. Foundations such as the Josiah Macy Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are supporting investigations of interprofessional care. The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions and professional associations are beginning to establish requirements for interprofessional education and practice. “The confluence is coming together so that it might last.”
Interprofessional education is also becoming globalized, said Lyons, with many European countries involved. A major dialogue has been occurring through the World Health Organization involving people from developed and underdeveloped countries sharing ideas and program designs