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Students at an MCPHS interprofessional education event.

A New Vision of Team-based Care: The Interprofessional Case Conference at MCPHS

  • In October, MCPHS brought together faculty members and thought leaders from prestigious Boston-area healthcare organizations with one goal: to model interprofessional discussion and team-based collaborative care in an Interprofessional Case Conference. In small group discussions, participating students from MCPHS, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Northeastern University not only observed what interprofessionalism looks like in action—they dove in, joining the conversation and opening new lines of interdisciplinary communication.

    The conference’s topic was timely: an anonymized case in which the risks of a patient developing opioid dependence were balanced against chronic pain relief that opioids deliver. As healthcare providers grapple with the far-reaching consequences of an accelerating epidemic, communication and specialized training become increasingly vital. MCPHS students learn to take into account the possibility of substance abuse when prescribing pain medication, and their cross-disciplinary training encourages them to reach out to other providers within a patient’s team to help solve persistent pain issues. At one table, a pharmacy student described some best practices to avoid overprescribing: “If a patient came in with an opioid prescription from a dentist, we would check to make sure that the patient wasn’t also getting opioids from other sources. If it was the first prescription for opioids, we’d hold it to a seven-day supply, and make sure that he or she knew how to use it safely.”

    As new graduates enter the workforce, they will encounter an increasingly complex and interconnected field in which all providers must contend with the effects of the opioid epidemic. In one small group, a faculty member guided a discussion about each provider’s scope of care: “It comes down to mutual respect for each other’s roles.” A PA student agreed, adding: “At some point, you have to look at using non-pharmacological means to control the pain.” One such non-pharmacological means? Acupuncture. As graduates of the MCPHS New England School of Acupuncture are aware, a growing number of hospitals are discovering the benefits of having acupuncturists on staff, not only to provide pain relief, but also to support addiction recovery.

    Located in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area and boasting more than 100 different healthcare-focused programs, MCPHS is uniquely positioned to convene these kinds of discussions: in attendance were faculty and staff from Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Biogen, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Boston VA Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Additionally, MCPHS’s collaborations with other universities and schools that provide healthcare education programs, allow MCPHS students to learn and work side-by-side with students from Northeastern University, Harvard University and other flagship institutions. One cumulative, positive effect of these encounters is the development of a healthy professional network for new graduates.

    As the Interprofessional Case Conference came to a close, it became clear that the small group discussions had added up to more than just a sum of their individual parts: they were part of a bold new reimagining of team-based care.