Interprofessional Competencies Make the Difference in Healthcare

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

While it may seem natural for healthcare professionals to work together to achieve the best patient outcomes, in practice, it isn’t always that simple. The silo-nature of modern healthcare has made fluid collaboration a challenge. As Constance Hall, chair of Graduate Nursing at Capella University notes, “We have the physician, the nurse, the health administrator, and the public health professional in the community, but no one is connecting with each other. That’s when the patient loses with suboptimal outcomes.” 

Changes Brought by the Affordable Care Act  

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has encouraged healthcare professionals to take another look at how they work with patients—and each other. According to The Importance of Interprofessional Practice and Education in the Era of Accountable Care, the ACA incentivizes healthcare providers to focus on costs savings, quality measures, service, and efficiency by tying reimbursement to these outcomes. The report also notes that Medicare, Medicaid, and third-party payers are pushing health care providers to develop teams designed to improve outcomes by: 

  • coordinating care and education for patients. 
  • encouraging self-care in patients. 
  • supporting comprehensive management of chronic conditions. 
  • treating health concerns sooner rather than later.

This team-based approach, known as “interprofessional practice and education” (IPE), is now essential in healthcare delivery. While IPE has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent years, it is much more than that. It is a fundamental shift in the way that providers interact with patients, families, communities, and other health care professionals. 

It Starts With Interprofessional Education 

“Research suggests that collaboration improves coordination outcomes,” says Robin Brennan, chair of Public Health at Capella University. “The most effective way to learn how to collaborate is to start early while students are still preparing for their careers. Research shows that providers who have interprofessional education experiences as students are more successful at working together”

Curricula at Capella University reflect what’s happening in practice. Silos in nursing, health administration, and public health are being broken down—and students are working across departments and functions to develop innovative practice standards to deliver high quality, cost-effective healthcare. 


Doctoral Programs Deliver Interprofessional Competencies 

Capella has revised its programs to prepare graduates to practice at the top of the profession. For example, Capella’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) include courses that integrate students, so they can learn from and relate to each other in authentic ways. As Dr. Hall notes, “This will give our learners an edge, because when they graduate they will have the competencies to effectively work with other disciplines in the healthcare setting.”

As an academic institution that is focused on professional relevance, Capella is continually innovating and enhancing our programs to ensure they are aligned to the ever-changing needs of the healthcare industry. We gather feedback from our employer partners to understand the interprofessional competencies that are essential in today’s healthcare environment. We also provide data back to our partners so they can see how their employees are progressing against those competencies.

Gone are the days of the hierarchy of professions. Patient safety and quality care depend not only on the contributions of individual professions, but also on the synergy of the interprofessional team as a whole. The barriers to interprofessional education are many including lack of faculty experienced in the process, scheduling conflicts, and the seeming impossibility of adding more to already loaded curricula. However, barriers must be overcome—as without it, we are unlikely to achieve the patient, systems, and population outcomes that are so urgently needed.

Visit for more information. 

Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs.

About the Author
Dr. Ben Spedding has 20+ years of experience working mainly in the nonprofit healthcare and social services arenas. During this time, he has had the opportunity to work closely with executives from both the purchaser and provider side of the table in responding to the industry’s demand for determining new methods of organizing, delivering and purchasing of these services. Currently, in his position as chair of Health Administration and Innovation, within Capella University’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr. Spedding leverages his experience to focus departmental teaching targets and curriculum/competency development work that will provide learners with the skills and expertise required to be successful within the evolving health care environment.
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