A multidisciplinary team is a group of different healthcare professionals who specialized in specific disciplines. You may find a primary care physician, a psychiatrist, and even a social worker as part of this team. Their goal, as a team, is to provide the patient with the specific services they require to maintain an independent life.
Each person on the multidisciplinary team is responsible for the provision of services or treatments in which they specialize. When all of this work comes together, the patient is able to follow a care plan which keeps everyone on the same page. Most multidisciplinary teams will have a key worker assigned to the patient, serving as that person’s primary contact point to the rest of the team.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages to consider when looking at the structure and services that a multidisciplinary team is able to provide.
List of the Advantages of a Multidisciplinary Team
1. It gives a patient access to an entire team of experts.
When a multidisciplinary team is formed, it allows a patient to receive collaborative supports from a wide range of experts. Each person contributes from their own perspective, which can then enhance the treatments which are offered by others. This process works to ensure that every patient is given access to the best possible treatment options that are currently available.
2. It improves service coordination.
Although there are greater time commitments involved for members of an MDT, there are greater efficiencies offered to the patient. Because the services are coordinated together, there is a framework of uniformity provided to each person that improves treatment delivery. Even if some members of the multidisciplinary team are halfway around the world from the patient, the communication that happens in this structure makes service coordination easier.
3. It expedites the referral process.
Multidisciplinary teams are often composed of specialists in their specific field of practice. That means a patient who must receive a referral for a specific treatment will already have access to the people who need to make that happen. The MDT can work together to get processes approved, delays minimized, and treatments started to give that person the best possible chance to restore or maintain their health status.
4. It creates new avenues for service implementation.
One of the best reasons to have an MDT is that it provides the patient with access to resources from multiple departments and organizations. What may be impossible for one organization or provider to offer could be accomplished when small resources from multiple sources are combined together. A multidisciplinary team will often be granted the authority to pull these resources to provide immediate care whenever it may be necessary.
5. It allows patients to create goals for themselves.
A multidisciplinary team offers patients a chance to set specific daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for themselves. This allows the team to engage with the goals, holding themselves and the patient accountable to the desired outcome. It also gives the MDT a chance to encourage family participation with the goals, which can improve care coordination and even reduce inpatient stays in some situations. Although there may be personality conflicts to manage, most patients see more progress with an MDT than without one.
List of the Disadvantages of a Multidisciplinary Team
1. There is always a time pressure involved in providing services.
When working with a multidisciplinary team, there are two key elements to consider for each person instead of one. Not only are they responsible for finishing their own work with the patient, they must also spend time communicating with the rest of the patient’s team. They must respond to any modifications that happen to the treatment plan, sometimes even those that do not apply to them. Even though it is a collaborative process, there are non-collaborative elements which take place.
2. Different team members come from unique backgrounds.
A multidisciplinary team succeeds when there is similarity in member backgrounds and educational experiences. The reality of the modern team is that you get a wide mix of people, some just starting their careers, while others are beginning to finish theirs up. Different jobs happen on different schedules as well, which creates challenges when trying to provide services. Then there is the issue of a psychiatrist not necessarily knowing what a social worker does, and vice-versa.
3. It requires frequent collaboration to be effective.
Multidisciplinary teams must meet frequently to provide collaboration and communication to keep everyone on the same page. Although some time can be saved by having each person offer information at specific times, then review notes of the entire meeting later, a large MDT meeting might last 2 to 3 hours for the patient involved. For most people, that is a lot of time that they are forced to take out of their day.
4 It is dependent upon available resources.
MDTs are forced to rely on whatever resources, including manpower, that are available in and around the patient. That means it may not be possible for all the recommendations of the team to be implemented at the same time. In that kind of circumstance, the treatments which take the top priority would be implemented first, forcing other members of the team to attend meetings even though they’re not playing an active role in the outcomes being achieved.
5. Incomplete decisions happen without complete information.
MDTs work best when everyone present is working within a defined role on the patient’s behalf. To create these roles, there must be complete information access, including evaluations, surveys, and other unique data points. Without this information, the decisions that the team makes will be unable to maximize the potential benefits that the patient may need to receive.
6. If it wasn’t documented, then it didn’t happen.
Over the course of any given day, a member of an MDT might be working with more than a dozen patients. That means each person lives in a world of documentation. They might provide the services that the multidisciplinary team recommended, but if they failed to document that fact, then it effectively didn’t happen. Many governments provide oversight of multidisciplinary team meetings, which means there can be civil or criminal investigations as an outcome of missed services. In California, for example, a social worker can face criminal charges in performing their duties if harm comes to their patient.
The advantages and disadvantages of a multidisciplinary team provide a structure where patients can receive more effective care. The quality of that care is dependent upon the resources that are available from the community, each service provider, and the patient themselves. When everyone works together to achieve an outcome, then good things can happen.