What is multidisciplinary healthcare?

Here at EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation, we’re big advocates of multidisciplinary care. In fact it’s something you’ll hear our specialists talking about quite a lot – the importance of thinking beyond the immediate emergency, the crucial next steps towards a full recovery for your patient. So… what exactly is it? Here’s a brief explanation – and why we think it’s so important for patients who are considering a medical transport overseas.

What is multidisciplinary healthcare

What is it?

Multidisciplinary care simply means a patient is being treated by a range of specialists who are working together to deliver their care plan. You may also hear it called “integrated care”. The UK’s NHS England describes it like this:

“My care is planned with people who work together to understand me and my carer(s), put me in control, and coordinate and deliver services to achieve my best outcomes.”(1)

The keyword there is “coordinated”. With multidisciplinary / integrated healthcare, all the doctors are on the same page, delivering a shared plan for your patient.

Where did it start?

The concept has actually been around for a long time. One early proponent was William J. Mayo, cofounder of the famous Mayo Clinic. Mayo believed medicine should be a “cooperative science”. “The clinician, the specialist, and the laboratory workers [should be] uniting for the good of the patient, each assisting in elucidation of the problem at hand, and each dependent upon the other for support,” he said in 1910.

What does it look like?

Let’s look at a real-life example. An elderly patient with a history of heart and lung problems starts to experience chest pain and breathing difficulties. In hospital, the duty doctor suspects a pulmonary embolism, then arranges an urgent video meeting with specialists – a team that includes doctors from cardiology, pulmonary, radiology, critical care and haematology. Together, they examine the patient’s images and discuss the best treatment options. After surgery to remove a blood clot, the patient is reassessed with the help of a rehab team, which includes a physiotherapist, a geriatric specialist, a nutritionist and a mental health practitioner.

How effective is it?

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it’s very good for patient outcomes. Using a strategy similar to the one above, in 2012 Massachusetts’ General Hospital created a multidisciplinary rapid-response team for patients with pulmonary embolisms (PE), the first of its kind in the US. It saw a 25% fall in fatalities among patients with massive PE, less than half when compared with the national rate. Another 2018 study found that elderly abdominal patients who received coordinated care around the time of their surgery experienced less time in hospital, lower readmission rates, and fewer complications.

What else is good about it?

There are lots of other reasons why multidisciplinary care is a good choice for patients. For instance:

  • Rehab – high-quality aftercare can make a huge difference to recovery times and outcomes
  • Speed – coordinated treatment means patients move more efficiently through the system
  • Mental wellbeing – the approach often involves support from mental health experts
  • Family help – integrated care often seeks to involve the patient’s loved ones in their treatment
  • Next steps – families can make more informed decisions about ongoing care, eg live-in carers or care homes
  • Satisfaction – because patients do better when they feel they are at the centre of their care plan

The bottom line

What’s the application for medical transports? Essentially, that integrated healthcare is the gold standard for patient treatment. But – since it’s not available in so many health systems around the world – it makes sense to consider the possibility of going overseas for the service. For expats who have fallen ill abroad, that might mean repatriating home to Northern Europe, where multidisciplinary care is far more common than in other parts of the world, including southern Europe. For others, it could mean travelling away from home to have high-quality integrated treatment elsewhere, such as the US or Canada (this is known as Medical Tourism).

Either way – whether your patient needs urgent treatment or long-term care from specialist consultants – this is certainly something we can help you with here at EMS. Our medical experts can offer advice and recommendations for private international hospitals with multidisciplinary teams, and even arrange and book appointments for you. And, of course, we’ll get you there quickly, securely and comfortably, with an all-in-one medical repatriation that goes from bed to bed.

(1) NHS England: MTD Development – working toward an effective multidisciplinary/multiagency team

Contact us

Need to chat? We’re here to help! You can talk to our friendly experts by phone, email, WhatsApp or iMessage. Head to our Contact page for the details. You can also get a free, no-obligation cost estimate for your repatriation with our online pricing calculator.

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