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IPE And The Triple Aim

Alexandria, VA

George Thibault with Don Berwick

Macy President George Thibault with former CMS administrator Donald Berwick


“What are we trying to get done?”

That was the question Don Berwick, former CMS Administrator, posed to participants gathered yesterday at the Macy Conference on Interprofessional Education (IPE).

By teaching health professions how to work collaboratively and in teams, we believe we can improve patient care and ultimately improve the health of the public. This is the end game of our collective efforts to advance IPE. Yet we can lose sight of this goal when deep in the weeds of curriculum development or as we strive to navigate scheduling challenges, find classrooms large enough to teach nursing and medical students together, and overcome other obstacles to implement IPE.

Berwick urged the audience to revisit the aim of IPE and use it as a touchstone to guide action. And he encouraged participants to think about how IPE is linked to health care’s “triple aim” of better care, better health and lower costs.

With spending on health care consuming more and more of our GDP, there is an imperative to reduce the cost of health care and direct savings into other areas of need, such as education, wages and job training, or roads and infrastructure. But health professionals education rarely addresses this issue. Berwick shared the story of his daughter, a second year resident who is learning new and exciting ways to practice medicine, such as how to use the internet for patient care and how to work in teams, but has never been taught anything about health care costs.

IPE has the potential to help lower costs. Through teamwork and improved communication we can reduce duplication of effort and decrease errors, cutting out waste from the system. The next step, as Gerri Lamb of Arizona State University pointed out from the audience, is to make that link “more conscious and explicit.”

Perhaps one outcome of this conference will be the need for more thoughtful consideration of how IPE can help make health care more affordable, whether IPE should pursue the triple aim and how we incorporate health care costs into our methodology and evaluation. Stay tuned!

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