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J Interprof Care. 2006 Aug;20(4):349-63.

Communication in interdisciplinary team meetings: what are we talking about?

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Center for Health Quality, Outcomes & Economic Research, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Boston University School of Public Health, Bedford, MA 01730, USA.


Interdisciplinary teams are central to the care of the older patient in long-term care settings. Critical to the success of caring for these patients is the communication between providers about patient care. This study examines professional communication practices in interdisciplinary team meetings, a common forum for discussing patient care. Two teams at a long-term care facility specializing in patients with Alzheimer's participated in this qualitative exploratory study. All team members participated in semi-structured interviews. In addition, seven team meetings in which 31 patients were discussed were audio and video taped. Team members discussed the importance of team meetings to help coordinate care provided to patients, while also expressing concern about the effectiveness of the meetings to reach this goal. Through detailed discourse analyses of transcripts of the meetings, we identified three different communication practices in team meetings: giving report, writing report, and collaborative discussion. Only the latter practice met the goals indicated by the team members to coordinate and make joint decisions about patient care and allowed for team members to collaboratively solve problems. We discuss one case study to exemplify how the use of these communication practices results in the omission of information central to making decisions regarding patient care.

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