I’ve just returned from a wonderful Collaborating Across Borders Conference (CAB) IV in Vancouver. Over 800 people attended this meeting–a remarkable growth in interest since 250 people gathered at the first CAB meeting in Minneapolis in 2007. The sophistication of the work in practice and education grows exponentially. I’m very impressed.
One of the questions I’m most often asked (and there are many!) is about how to measure interprofessional learning outcomes. I had conversations with many of you on this exact topic last week. How do we know if all of the work we are doing in interprofessional education and collaborative practice is making a difference? This question is at the core of the National Center’s work. I’m glad it’s something I hear about so often; it’s center’s role to ask and help answer those difficult questions.
At CAB, we heard colleagues such as Amy Blue of the Medical University of South Carolina, Andrea Pfeifle of the University of Kentucky, and Kevin Lyons and Carolyn Giordano of Thomas Jefferson asking that question as they presented their important work in evaluation and assessment. We have much to learn from each other.
Back at the National Center, we’re asking the same questions, together with many experts and colleagues, with a specific goal in mind: sustainability. Given the pendulum of interest and investments in interprofessional education and teamwork over the years, what tells us that it is “making a difference?” We know that for interprofessional practice and education to survive and thrive, we have to demonstrate that it “works” and we need feedback to move beyond theories and build upon each other’s progress. We’re coming at this from multiple angles.
First, at a minimum, the National Center’s role is to help those of you working in the area of evaluation and assessment to connect with each other. I receive many calls and emails each week from colleagues around the world, and often I hear about funded efforts to answer those questions about impact. We are working on strategies to help colleagues identify each other and connect in this important work.
Fortunately, our Canadian colleagues have already delved into complex issues such as economics and impact. At CAB IV, we heard from Ivy Oandason and Eddy Nason and about a model for measuring what the experts call return on investment, or ROI, for interprofessional education and collaborative practice. To achieve the Triple Aim, we must validate the financial impact of our work to show that we can lower costs and add value while simultaneously improving health of people, families and communities. We’re engaging Ivy, Eddy and our Canadian colleagues to learn more from their model.
And we’re convening teams from around the country who will serve as “applied laboratories” for new interprofessional practice and education models. We will test, and collect and share data about, how new models work on the ground. Together with these national experts, we’re carefully constructing and prioritizing our research questions so we can build the evidence base for interprofessional practice and education.
I will be writing more about this over the next few weeks. We believe that our role as a National Center is to drive sustainable change in health, health care delivery and health professions education. Measuring and communicating our impact—on care, cost, and population health—is the foundation of that sustainability. A recent comment from a faculty expert sticks in my mind: “If we don’t define the measures, someone else will.” With the National Center gaining momentum, we can use our collective wisdom to define those measures, demonstrate value and ensure a strong future for better health in the United States.