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Interprofessional education and patient involvement essential in health care

Dr  Cecilia Rokusek

Dr. Cecilia Rokusek


FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. Six years after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law (March 23, 2010), America is still adapting to health care reform. Whether one agrees with the legislation or not, one thing we should all agree on is that health professionals from all disciplines must work together — and not in silos — for the benefit of the patient.

The law emphasizes interprofessional education for students and professionals, as well as inclusion of the patient and family in the health care team.

This is a paradigm shift from the 20th century in which patients were not actively involved as members of the health care team to help manage their own care. In addition, professionals often delivered fragmented and “siloed” health care, not working or communicating with other members of the medical team to provide coordinated care in concert with the individual patient/consumer seeking the care.

With the growing incidence of chronic illnesses, there is a need to both prevent and manage these ongoing medical challenges in a collaborative manner with health and social professionals involving the patient and the family at every step.

Studies have demonstrated that interprofessional team-based collaborative care delivered throughout the life span within the context of a medical home can: 1) enhance patient outcomes; 2) reduce overall care costs; 3) reduce medical errors; 4) reduce procedural duplication; 5) enhance pharmaceutical compliance; 6) actively involve the patient in his or her own health care and increase overall health care satisfaction. In fact, the team approach has been endorsed by more than 60 professional organizations.

We, as a health care community, still have a long way to go to achieve the ideal interprofessional environment. We must continue to build mutual respect among all health and social professions. At the same time, we must respect patients and take time to listen to and understand their questions, concerns, and desires.

As professionals, we must be open to shared leadership in patient care and coordination. This means open communication and trust at all levels. In addition, our payment systems must be better coordinated and the patient/consumer needs to understand the payment system and not fear asking questions.

At Nova Southeastern University, we place a heavy emphasis on this team approach as we shape our next generation of health care leaders. We include interprofessional education in our curricula, integrate different professions into basic science courses so students gain an understanding and mutual respect for their peers, and even host programs, such as Interprofessional Education Day on our campus to emphasize the importance of working together to benefit our patients.

This is the future of health care. Don’t get left behind in your silos.

Dr. Cecilia Rokusek
Assistant dean of research and innovation
Project director for NSU’s Center for Interprofessional Education and Practice
Nova Southeastern University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine

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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic research institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. A private, not-for-profit institution with more than 24,000 students, NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. For more than 50 years, NSU has been awarding degrees in a wide range of fields, while fostering groundbreaking research and an impactful commitment to community. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is 1 of only 37 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the  largest private, not-for-profit institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit for more information.