News from UT InterProfessional Education

Highlights from Dr. Alan Dow's IPE Presentation

 America’s healthcare system faces distinct challenges: to improve health, to enhance the quality of care, and to reduce costs, all while serving a growing population that is medically underserved and sicker with multiple chronic conditions. Alan Dow, MD, MHSA, views these challenges as opportunities for higher education schools of health to work collaboratively and equip tomorrow’s healthcare providers with the skills to combat today’s challenges.

On Thursday, February 11, Dr. Dow visited UT and presented “Building the Team Society Needs: The Present and Future of Interprofessional Practice” at the Blanton Auditorium. Funded by a Health and Human Services grant for Interprofessional Education at UT’s School of Nursing, the event was co-sponsored by the College of Pharmacy, Dell Medical School, the School of Nursing, and the School of Social Work. The talk drew faculty, staff, and students from these co-sponsoring schools as well as the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the College of Education.  Members of the Austin medical community also were in attendance to hear Dr. Dow’s ideas on embedding “shared problem-solving” in healthcare education.

Dr. Dow stated that the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease, is preventable medical errors; over 400,000 deaths each year are the result of medical mistakes.  While the general category of ‘human factors’ represents the most frequent source of errors, leadership and communication are the second and third most cited reason for death in cases of medical mistakes. By incorporating interprofessional education and teamwork into health professions education, the providers of healthcare will have both professional expertise and collaborative expertise. Medical professionals can better understand one another’s roles, become change agents to impact systems, and provide STEEEP (safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and patient-centered) care. 

With two-thirds of practicing physicians on anti-depressants, Dr. Dow explained how the triple aim model of healthcare (improve health outcomes, lower cost, and increase experience of care) has now shifted to a quadruple aim, with the addition of practitioner satisfaction. At VCU, where Dow is the Assistant Vice President of Health Sciences for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care, students in the healthcare fields work collaboratively on interprofessional teams in the community and are already seeing the positive changes of their teams’ efforts.  When healthcare professionals feel they have positive impact not only on their patients’ outcomes, but also on the shape of the system, their perceived satisfaction of their job will improve. Interprofessional education is a vehicle for disseminating the teamwork, communication, and leadership skills and experiences necessary for overcoming the healthcare system’s current challenges. 

~Sarah McElvain, LMSW

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