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Interdisciplinary Team Interventions Have Little Impact on Traditional Quality Measures


Clinical question: Do interdisciplinary team care interventions affect outcomes for hospitalized patients in general medical wards?

Bottom line: Interdisciplinary team care interventions do not significantly affect oft-used quality measures such as length of stay, readmissions, or mortality. However, some experts question whether these measures are appropriate for assessing the effectiveness of such interventions. A small body of evidence suggests that interdisciplinary interventions may affect complications of care or preventable adverse events. In the future, these and other more appropriate measures should be used when assessing interdisciplinary team care interventions. (LOE = 2a)

Reference: Pannick S, Davis R, Ashrafian H, et al. Effects of interdisciplinary team care interventions on general medical wards. JAMA Intern Med 2015;175(8):1288-1298.

Study design: Systematic review

Funding source: Government

Allocation: Uncertain

Setting: Inpatient (any location)


These investigators searched multiple databases including EMBASE and MEDLINE, as well as reference lists of included studies, to find trials that evaluated the effects of interdisciplinary team care on objective patient outcomes in the general medical wards. Study selection, data extraction, and assessment of bias were performed by independent reviewers.

Thirty studies (randomized controlled trials, cluster studies, and before-after studies) were included in the review. The studies had heterogeneous designs and outcome measures and all of them had a medium or high risk of bias. The majority of the studies, however, reported on complications of care, length of stay, readmission, or mortality.

Out of 10 studies that examined complications of care, five showed a reduction in this outcome by formalizing interdisciplinary rounds or adding specialized clinicians or pharmacists to the interdisciplinary team. Overall, 20% of the studies that looked at length of stay showed a reduction in this measure, but these results may have been confounded by secular trends toward length of stay reduction. No study showed a consistent or persistent effect on readmissions or mortality.

Dr. Kulkarni is an assistant professor of hospital medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

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