WCPT President Marilyn Moffat speaking during the WHPA Forum.
WCPT President Marilyn Moffat speaking during the WHPA Forum.

Why collaborative practice is the future of health services

What needs to be in place for true collaborative practice to happen? The roles of interdisciplinary education, international classifications, good communication models and information technology were under discussion at a special forum on collaborative practice organised by the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA), of which WCPT is a member.

WCPT President Marilyn Moffat was among the speakers at the WHPA leadership forum, held in Geneva in May. Focusing on collaborative practice in rehabilitation, she highlighted how the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health could provide a framework for collaborative practice, yielding positive results in areas such as safety, client satisfaction and service access. 

The participants, drawn from WHPA’s members – the International Council of Nurses, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, WCPT, the World Dental Federation and the World Medical Association – discussed the prerequisites of collaborative practice, and identified the need to:

  • set a direction for collaborative practice
  • support interdisciplinary education
  • identify models of good interprofessional communication
  • identify factors that encouraged collaboration
  • address different levels of development.

Several speakers focused on the relationship between health and economics. Dr Olivier Raynauld, Senior Director of the Global Health and Healthcare Sector for the World Economic Forum, pointed to the enormous contribution information technology could make to enabling collaboration. This led not only to better outcomes, but to lower health expenditure.

“There is currently a lack of collaboration among stakeholders in health, based on lack of trust if not a strong distrust,” he said. “At the World Economic Forum we want to offer a forum to foster this collaboration.”

There is currently a false divide between public and private, he said, and the private sector could do a great deal to foster public health. He pointed out that the new head of the World Bank is a doctor. “This is a recognition that health needs to be looked at not as a moral obligation or a right, but placed at the heart of economic growth,” he said.

In a world recession, health reform and transformation will be guided by economic considerations, he said. Technology is now revolutionising care by providing access to data, providing feedback to people to help them stay healthy and enabling the provision of services. It is allowing the international sharing and benchmarking of information that will help transform health.

But alongside technology, increased collaboration – between health workers, and with other sectors that are invited to be part of solutions – is central to transforming health systems. 

“We hear views that there are silos across systems of individual health interventions,” said Oliver Raynauld. “However, technology is going to enable integration and collaboration.” He said that projects in the United States suggested that all health professions had to be persuaded to share using information systems. Once they did, they generated better outcomes at a lower cost.

 “One expert we interviewed said it was striking how health workers have been the subject of health reform, not the actors in health reform. I think they should be the pioneers of collaboration, and the agents of transformation who will enable much better services in the future.”

Dr Olivier Raynauld, Senior Director of the Global Health and Healthcare Sector for the World Economic Forum