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According to the World Health Organization (WHO) "collaborative practice in healthcare occurs when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds provide comprehensive services by working with patients, their families, carers and communities to deliver the highest quality of care across settings." Collaborative interprofessional heath care teams include both clinical providers (e.g., physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, dieticians, etc.), as well as those that provide social services and supports (e.g., social workers, case managers, care navigators, etc.) Furthermore, collaborative healthcare teams recognize that the healthcare needs of patients are best met when several providers from various disciplines work together. These teams work in both acute and community care settings.
As British Columbians live longer, they are also increasingly living with complex health conditions, and the need for "collaborative, coordinated, community-based and patient-focused" care is ever more important. The importance of interprofessional teams has long been recognized in areas such as end-of-life and palliative care, chronic disease prevention and management, primary health care, rural health, mental health and geriatric care by previously existing champions of interprofessional collaboration such as the UBC College of Health Disciplines and the Interprofessional Network of B.C.
There continues to be substantial recognition among healthcare providers, researchers and patient advocates of the effectiveness of collaborative care models in improving patient care, and some jurisdictions across the country have been successful in moving this beyond the education sector into practice through family health teams, integrated healthcare teams, community health centres and primary care homes. However, healthcare delivery in B.C. continues to be dominated by a traditional physician-centred model that focuses on acute and episodic healthcare, which was designed in the 1960s. As a result, highly educated and skilled healthcare providers in all disciplines are currently not being utilized to their full potential in Canada.
As part of the Ministry of Health policy papers, "Delivering Patient-Centred, high performing and sustainable health system", the Ministry indicated that collaboration will be necessary in order to achieve better health outcomes in British Columbia. As a method to understand population health needs, the Ministry has subdivided the population into four distinct groups:
- "staying healthy" (health non service users; patients needing minor episodic health services; maternal and healthy newborn services)
- "getting better" (those patients who are in need of major or significant time-limited medical and/or surgical health services)
- "living with illness and/or disability" (disabilities both physical and developmental, complex mental health, substance use, chronic conditions and cancer)
- "coping with end of life" (frail individuals at home, those requiring residential care, palliative care and end of life care). In order to meet the growing complex health needs of British Columbians