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Healthcare is a team effort

I recently had an interesting conversation with some enthusiastic students interning in our office. They seemed to wonder why a single patient usually requires a team of medical professionals to address specific healthcare needs. In the students’ minds, a single doctor should suffice. But nothing could be further from medical reality. It’s long been accepted that medical teams, working in unison, collectively perform better than individual clinicians working in isolation.

Why are medical teams a necessity? For starters, healthcare is so broad that no single individual can ever master each and every aspect of medical care. There are also so many medical specialties, and even sub-specialties within specific medical disciplines. When you add on auxiliary staff to the equation, the medical team numbers start to climb up even more. Holistic healthcare can therefore only be achieved by the acceptance of complementary roles played by all team members.

The next time you find yourself surrounded by a medical team, be well aware that each of them is playing a significant role. Granted, most of your medical interactions tend to be with the doctor, or the nurse. You may feel intimidated when yet another health professional gets invited into your consults, or comes in to help with certain procedures. It’s usually an effort to optimize your overall care, with every team member contributing their specific expertise to boost your wellbeing.

But healthcare teams must have clearly defined roles, otherwise it all becomes messy. There must be a clear leadership and governance structure. Senior clinicians must complement the competencies of their more junior and less experienced colleagues. There must be clinical harmony with the nursing team and other auxiliaries. Other team members with minimal direct contact with patients, like those in diagnostics and tech departments, must maintain clear communications with clinical staff to maintain seamless service provision.

You stand a better chance of optimal medical care if you are being treated by a team of specialists, rather than individual doctors working in isolation. Medical teams aiming for clinical excellence tend to pool different skills together, uphold latest medical advances and best practices, and maintain high levels of accountability. This can only be a good thing for you. Your default then must always be team-based care.

Those living in isolated rural areas may struggle to access good medical teams. But telehealth is here. Stand-alone medical practices in remote places can easily link themselves up with specialist medical teams. Modern tech now enables specialists to participate in patient care, even when both parties are located in different geographical places. All that is required is the right tech infrastructure, and a willingness by healthcare providers to enable optimization of team-based care.

The days of a solo, super medical specialist are long gone. Embrace team-based care, you will fare better.


Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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I recently had an interesting conversation with some enthusiastic students interning in our office. They seemed to wonder why a single patient usually requires a team of medical professionals to address specific healthcare needs. In the students’ minds, a single doctor should suffice. But nothing could be further from medical reality. It’s long been accepted that medical teams, working in unison, collectively perform better than individual clinicians working in isolation.

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