Our mission at the Canadian Chiropractic Association is to motivate all Canadians to include a chiropractor as an integral part of their healthcare teams. The notion of a “team” may seem like a departure from the traditional healthcare model, but given the great examples of collaborative care that already exist, it’s more of an evolution than a departure.
What is a healthcare team?
The ideal team is patient-centred, including the patient as a partner and respecting his or her experience. Patient-centred care views the patient as a whole person as opposed to a collection of symptoms. Few illnesses exist alone, and frequently involve secondary issues that may require treatment/management from more than one type of healthcare profession. For example, patients that suffer from musculoskeletal conditions are more at risk of also suffering from a comorbidity such as depression. Chiropractors are spine, muscle and nervous system experts with the training and education to appropriately manage musculoskeletal conditions and refer to colleagues to manage other conditions that are not within our scope of practice. This is how healthcare teams are built!
Team members working synergistically together may help patients enhance every aspect of their health: physical, mental and emotional, while addressing lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. A high-functioning team that prioritizes the patient as a partner has the right combination of skills and expertise to assess, manage, advise, and to educate in order to help patients participate in their health and make appropriate choices that support the effort of the team and result in better health outcomes for Canadians.
Electronic health records (EHR)
A key factor in building an effective healthcare team, not unlike baseball, is maintaining open lines of communication. For instance, if a player running the bases doesn’t adhere to the hand signals from his or her line coach, the play will be lost. The traditional healthcare model was a patchwork of services, with professionals of differing disciplines working from separate offices or clinics. Communication between healthcare providers, where it existed, was slow and limited by technology.
In recent years, the lines of communication between healthcare professionals have improved to a great extent due to the advent of electronic health records (EHR). As we documented in When Healthcare Professionals Collaborate: A Look at DCs and MDs Working Side by Side, attending healthcare providers from across disciplines who are affiliated with the hospital can now access a patient’s records almost instantaneously rather than having to wait days or even weeks. The implications are that this open communication can eventually span, not just clinics and communities, but the whole country.
In a perfect world
As the healthcare system makes improvements and becomes more efficient, the dream is that every patient will have barrier-free access to the care and evidence-based treatment he or she needs. But it’s also important to note that in a patient-centred model, the patient bears responsibility for self-management and decision-making, and is empowered to make responsible lifestyle choices related to diet and exercise among others. Your healthcare team is there to give you the best available advice informed by an integrated team, but ultimately you are the one who decides what to do.