Shortly after classes began at UAMS for the fall 2015 semester, more than 750 incoming students from every college received their first dose of interprofessional education.
Attending a workshop hosted by the UAMS Office of Interprofessional Education, the students participated in discussions and team-based activities. Students in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, the graduate school and the allied health professions worked together on activities covering the topics of cultural competency, health literacy, patient- and family-centered care and social determinants of health in Arkansas.
It’s a sign of how UAMS is adjusting its academic programs for the changes in health care — preparing students for more team-based care and payments based on patient outcomes. Completing a new interprofessional curriculum, with a framework of experiences stretching across the entire length of the student’s degree program, is now a UAMS graduation requirement starting with these incoming students.
“Instead of working like consultants or independent contractors on the same project, these students will understand how to be fully integrated into a multi-disciplinary health care team where everyone is responsible for a patient’s outcome,” said Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., provost and chief academic officer. “As payment reform occurs we have to work this way and our students will graduate more prepared for the health care environment that awaits them.”
Through the course of their education at UAMS, they now have a roadmap to competence in interprofessional concepts.
The initial workshop was phase one of a three-phase curriculum that connects interprofessional education to the Triple Aim approach to health care performance — improving the patient experience, improving the health of the population and decreasing the cost of care.
Integrating the Triple Aim philosophy into UAMS academic programs in many ways mirrors the reorganization of UAMS clinical programs into service lines. A service line provides an organizational structure that enables physicians and staff to work as a team, in partnership with patients and families, to provide quality care in an efficient manner.
“Our students are going to be graduating into a different health care environment than in the past,” Gardner said. “The increased focus on interprofessional education aligns with the Triple Aim by giving our students a framework for how to function as team, delivering care efficiently and effectively.”
More team-based instruction is occurring across UAMS colleges. Concepts such as the “flipped classroom” and “active learning” are de-emphasizing the traditional lecture class and moving toward class time being for work by student teams.
The students must still learn the information, Gardner said, but that can be accomplished away from the classroom through reading, online education or videos streamed to computers, tablets or phones. When students are in class, the focus is shifting to more active practice of learned concepts, guided by faculty members serving more as facilitators than lecturers.
Interprofessional education extends team learning across professions, cognizant to the realities of the modern health care environment.
Students can learn to be highly competent in their profession but now they must understand how interdisciplinary teams can deliver care that produces the best outcomes most efficiently and factors in population health.
The interprofessional curriculum, created around the Triple Aim, will first expose students to the processes and benefits of patient-centered care delivered by interdisciplinary teams. As students continue to learn, they will participate in more activities that promote stronger collaboration — including team projects, presentations and clinical simulation exercises.
“The exposure workshop allowed these new UAMS students to learn from, about and with one another so that they model a culture of collaboration very early in their education,” said Gardner.
“Through the course of their education at UAMS, they now have a roadmap to competence in interprofessional concepts,” she said.
While learning how to work better together, the students also will learn about interprofessional methods for improving a patient’s outcome: patient- and family-centered care, the value of diversity, health economics and health literacy.
Health literacy — communicating complicated medical information to patients and families in the plainest language to improve a patient’s outcome — is now an element of the new interprofessional framework. UAMS has been promoting health literacy education, research and best practices since 2011, and opened a Center for Health Literacy in 2014. The center offers programs for graduate students to learn how to assess written health materials and edit to reduce the misunderstanding by patients.
Most academic health centers across the nation now have an interprofessional education requirement for students.
“Health literacy is relevant for all health professionals, so completing projects at the center helps students prepare to be better communicators with patients, regardless of their area of study, “said Kristie Hadden, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Literacy.
Organizing the offices of Interprofessional Education and Health Literacy in the UAMS Division of Academic Affairs ensures they are a resource for all UAMS programs. It also sends a message, Gardner said, that this curriculum and these philosophies are critically important for the university.
“Most academic health centers across the nation now have an interprofessional education requirement for students,” Gardner said. “I think this framework and the model for implementing it across the student’s academic experience is unique and is proving effective.