Interprofessional practice improves patient care

Pamela Duffy and her DMU colleagues had a question.

Does including public health students on interprofessional teams increase attainment of interprofessional practice competencies?

That is the title and topic of a paper published this month in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA), authored by DMU faculty Pamela Duffy, M.Ed., Ph.D., assistant professor of public health; Julie Ronnebaum, M.P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy; Teri Stumbo, M.S., Ph.D., associate dean of academic and student affairs, College of Health Sciences; Kari Smith, M.S.P.T., D.P.T.’04, BCB-PMD, DMU Physical Therapy Clinic manager; and Rachel Reimer, M.S., Ph.D., chair and program director, department of public health. Starting from the context that interprofessional education (IPE) “creates dynamic experiential learning that can address social determinants of health that influence health outcomes,” the authors surveyed 319 DMU students – 261 in clinical programs and 58 in nonclinical programs – who participated in a six-week online IPE learning activity.

Their conclusion: Having master of public health students on IPE teams “has the potential to increase clinical participants’ awareness of the influence of social determinants of health and interest in incorporating a biopsychosocial approach to health care.”

This is important, because social determinants of health, which include environmental, socioeconomic, demographic and nonbiological variables, can have a major impact on one’s health and well-being.

“We know that having a more diverse team working together improves the options for the patient to address social determinants of health and to create a more comprehensive treatment plan for the patient,” lead author Pamela Duffy explains in a video on the JAOA website.

That benefit extends beyond the individual patient to the health care system. IPE teams with knowledge of social determinants of health may be better equipped to “address problems earlier, probably with fewer dollars and less risk to the patient,” Dr. Duffy says.

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