News and Commentary Connecting Learning & Practice to Transform Patient Care

Last week, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation released important recommendations generated at a foundation-hosted meeting of thought leaders in January 2013 in Atlanta, Ga. Recognizing a growing gap, the group examined how educational reform, specifically interprofessional education (IPE), might occur in step with the rapidly transforming health care delivery system. This critical link is what the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education calls the Nexus.

The national center, led by the University of Minnesota as part of a cooperative agreement funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, contributes to the transformation of health care by identifying ways to improve health, enhance patient care and control costs by integrating interprofessional practice and education. By rigorously aligning the needs and interests of health professions education with practice, the center aims to create a transformational Nexus to incubate ideas, define the field, and guide program development and research.

IPE’s End Goal

These days, I hear comments that we need to make certain that we are not doing IPE for IPE’s sake—in other words, what is the end goal of all of the effort? The Macy report clearly frames the issues and answers this question: IPE is and must be about transformation to provide a better health care delivery system that achieves real outcomes in practice. Like the national center’s concept of the Nexus, the recommendations are rooted in a commitment to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim of improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations and reducing per capita costs of health care.

We are beginning to build the foundation for the national center, and the recommendations developed during that extraordinary January meeting are core to our work.

Making the Connection

For three days, I had the good fortune to engage with national leaders in health professions education and health care delivery in the extraordinary discussions about how to “connect great learning and great practice”.

For me, during the meeting, a breakthrough moment came when one group suggested that the linkage of IPE and collaborative practice needs the tagline: “all participants learn, all teach, all care, and all collaborate.” In other words, patients, families, communities, education, training and life-long professional development are all connected by sustaining an environment of mutual respect. That theme is truly carried throughout the participants’ five recommendations for transforming patient care by fully aligning the redesign of education and practice.

The report also acknowledges the enormous cultural change that must occur to bring the Nexus to life and, ultimately, create a high-functioning health care system “with empowered patients and engaged teams of practitioners and learners.”

Join Us

These recommendations underscore the urgency of our work in the national center and reinforce the potential impact of the Nexus on achieving the Triple Aim. The health care system has entered a period of unprecedented and absolutely necessary change. We must prepare our students and practitioners to work as effective teams, accountable for the health of both patients and their communities. Our work is reaching a critical point, and leaders in education and health care alike recognize the growing evidence that we must transform now, and we must transform together.

This is an exciting time, indeed. If you are interested in continuing this important conversation with the national center, I encourage you to sign up for our mailing list and share your thoughts on our blog. We are building a nationwide community of leaders, learners, and practitioners to drive sustainable change in health and health care delivery. Join us.

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