Towards successful interprofessional practice in health and social care: role clarity, shared goals, and effective communication
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Abstract: Although interprofessional practice or ‘integrated care’ is seen as a priority for health care and social care professionals, there are still a great many barriers that hamper the success of interprofessional collaboration. The present research assessed the extent to which local interprofessional practice around the facilitation of informal care was influenced by three ‘relational factors’ (clarity about professional roles, shared goals, and effective communication) and by two structural characteristics of the collaboration (formality of the collaboration and the specific professions included). These conditions are empirically related to outcomes of interprofessional collaboration. Existing data were analysed, collected by two Dutch Knowledge centres with expertise in Long Term Care (Vilans) and Social Care (Movisie) to evaluate their joint Programme ‘In for Informal Care’ which aims to improve local collaboration around informal care. Data consisted of 20 evaluative interviews and surveys among 180 health care and social care professionals who participated in the programme. The analysis confirms the importance of the three relational factors for collaboration around informal care. Currently, these three conditions are not fully met, and activities of the participants were aimed at meeting these necessary conditions. In addition, no formal collaboration exists between relevant professionals and coordination of activities is often challenging. Coordination is influenced by relational factors as well as the structural characteristics of the collaboration. The results provide insight into the necessary conditions for successful collaboration and into some important facilitators and barriers. Deliberate action of municipalities and organizations in Health and Social care is needed to explicate and negotiate professional roles and shared aims among professionals, to discuss any threats to professional identity imposed by the new demands, to create the conditions for effective communication, and to facilitate coordination of activities between all relevant professionals.