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The 6 secrets of interprofessional collaboration

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Jane Xia BSc.Pharm, PharmD, MBA, RPh is Principal Consultant with Cedar Health Consulting Inc.

Many pharmacists have asked me how to start a new collaborative project with other health care providers. The key to collaboration is knowing what you want to collaborate on and what differentiates your pharmacy from the rest. In many cases, although we have the best intention to provide the best clinical services, we end up not able to accomplish any because we run out of time and lose focus. One of the things I observed over the years is that pharmacy tries to do all and be all. This may be counter intuitive but business thrives on the value we provide and when you provide too many services, you end up being mediocre at all of them.

What is interprofessional collaboration?

There are various definitions of interprofessional collaboration. The World Health Organization defines it as “When multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds provide comprehensive services by working with patients, their families, caregivers and communities to deliver the highest quality of care across settings.” I like the quote from Charlotte Beers, former Ogilvy CEO, who said, “Collaboration is highly overrated when you don’t have the right thing to do.”

Know your value and differentiator

The equation I came up with for this is:

“Your therapeutic interest x key demographics = your differentiator + business success”

Knowing what you are good at is the single most important thing before you start approaching others to collaborate on any projects. For instance, if you are a CDE who is great at performing medication reviews and identifying drug therapy problems or someone who knows biologics really well to help with patient education, you must communicate this when you are collaborating with other health care providers to demonstrate your value.

Calculate your return on investment

For any business to get into a collaborative project with best patient outcomes in mind, one must calculate the return on investment. Will patients and other health care providers value this project? Will this project provide financial success? Find the win-win solution to ensure that your time and efforts are being compensated prior to starting the project and know which revenue streams will you be benefiting from.

6 secrets to collaboration:

  1. Be prepared

We talk about being prepared for meetings all the time. This is no different. By preparing specific questions you want to ask your potential collaborators, you help yourself to visualize how that interaction will go. Before meeting your key collaborators, you must first get to know the staff in that clinic to help you establish good first impressions. Failures are to be expected. Often, physicians are bombarded with workload expectations, patient requests, and many other tasks that demand their attention. Do not feel rejected if you are unsuccessful at booking an appointment the first time you ask. Persistence is key and it is a process. It is like riding a bike; it takes many tries and failures before you can be successful.

  1. Focus on exploring their needs

One of the most important steps in collaboration is discovering your collaborators’ needs. Knowing what they are struggling with, you will better empathize and build value to fit their needs.

  1. Be a solution provider

This goes hand in hand with the Secret #2 where you become the solution provider after knowing what your potential collaborators need and want. This helps you to create win-win solutions that will benefit everyone participating in this project.

  1. Understand each other’s roles and responsibilities

The last thing you want is everyone duplicating each other’s tasks and wasting valuable time that should be dedicated to patient care. Knowing everyone’s role and responsibilities will help mitigate potential waste, everybody can work synergistically.

  1. Be a good communicator

One key thing that many ignore is establishing regular communication when it comes to running a project. You and your collaborators should set a time on a regular basis to debrief on how the collaboration is going, what some of the successes and challenges are along the way. Be sure to communicate the successes you have achieved for your patients first to demonstrate your value!

  1. Earn your right to close

One mistake many pharmacists make is not asking for business despite providing immense value in a collaborative relationship. However, you should not be asking for referrals for a clinical program too early in the relationship when you have not yet demonstrated your value. It is important to know how to articulate and demonstrate your value through examples of how patients benefit from your intervention and collaborative efforts.

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