How to Cultivate Healthy Care Teams and Eliminate Risk

Posted on February 18, 2019 by Sarah Prom, MA, LPC, ODCP

With more and more medical care being delivered by teams made up of physicians, nurses and other professionals, intrateam cooperation and communication are becoming as crucial as diagnostic and treatment skills in giving quality care, maximizing the patient experience and saving lives. One study shows more than 70 percent of medical errors are rooted in poor interpersonal dynamics on care teams. In addition, dysfunction within groups has been shown again and again to lead to burnout, emotional distress, depression, substance abuse, reduced productivity and other problems among the team members themselves.

Spotting a Healthy Care Team

We take hold of this crucial issue by singling out the key markers of a high-functioning care team: the values (like empathy) and behaviors (including respectful communication) making teams run smoothly. We also spell out the telltale signs of a team heading for dysfunction, underline the role of leadership in setting standards and look through patients’ eyes to see how cordiality, mutual respect and smooth communication within teams act as powerful means of reassurance for the patients that care will be optimal.

"Good Enough" Is Not Good Enough!

The deliberate fostering of positive attitudes and good relationships within care teams needs to become an institutional priority on par with the other measures of medical excellence for which organizations strive. And just as with those other measures, “good enough” isn’t good enough! It pays real dividends to maintain the highest standards, to be proactive and to constantly strive to do better in these areas that are sometimes misnamed the “soft skills.”

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