Only a few days left until ACGME’s Annual Educational Conference, which means it’s time to wrap up our Meaning in Medicine series. If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you might have read our first two posts, which focus on patient-physician communication:


While the connection between a patient and physician is vital to proper diagnosis and treatment, physician-to-physician communication is equally important. This is especially true in cases where a patient’s needs are complex and require attention from more than one medical specialty or subspecialty. The following highlights why patient care coordination is important, the primary players in planning, and best practices for working on an interdisciplinary team.


Connecting the Dots

Interdisciplinary care describes the type of care patients with diverse health concerns require. The prime example of someone who may be in need of interdisciplinary care is someone in their old age. Often, elderly patients who check in with their primary care providers will have a health concern that requires a referral to another physician. The primary care provider might send their patient to a cardiologist if they are having heart issues, a psychiatrist if their memory is dimming, or perhaps a rheumatologist if their arthritis is flaring up.

Communicating a patient’s needs and connecting them to the right parties can be difficult, not to mention time-consuming. Often, nurses take on these responsibilities, which may cause them to be spread too thin. Through these difficulties, a new position in the medical field was born. Care coordinators assist patients by connecting them to parties that can improve their health.

Care coordinators are usually nurses who may work for a certain hospital or insurance company. These individuals often provide physician referrals and ensure that the referral takes a patient’s insurance. Many patients in need of interdisciplinary care may be covered by Medicare and Medicaid, which requires additional coordination efforts.


Working as a Team

Once a care coordinator has connected a patient to the proper physicians, it is the job of the physicians to ensure there is a clear line of communication among all parties. The failure to exchange information properly and efficiently can waste time and put a patient’s health at risk. Here are some of the best practices for working on an interdisciplinary team:


      1. Define clear goals and assign responsibilities

This means determining the desired health outcome for a patient and fashioning a corresponding, realistic, timeline. Once these two items are determined, the team should discuss which physicians will be held accountable for carrying out each part of the care plan.

      1. Recognize and Respect Overlaps

Understand each physician may see the case from a different point of view in accordance with his or her past experiences. Regardless of any disagreements, remember that restoring a patient’s health is the priority. Respect differing opinions and come to a consensus.

      1. Re-evaluate

Determine if the current plan of care is working. See what adjustments should be made to successfully meet the desired outcome. This may require outside-the-box thinking or carrying out a plan that is different than the one you proposed.


Interdisciplinary care can elevate a patient’s health when coordination and good communication are the foundation for teamwork.


Interested in learning how you or your institution can host AMO visitors for clinical experiences?

Contact our Program Development Specialist, Ann Cook, via email at for more information.