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A mixed methods study examining teamwork shared mental models of interprofessional teams during hospital discharge


Background Little is known about how team processes impact providers’ abilities to prepare patients for a safe hospital discharge. Teamwork Shared Mental Models (teamwork-SMMs) are the teams’ organised understanding of individual member’s roles, interactions and behaviours needed to perform a task like hospital discharge. Teamwork-SMMs are linked to team effectiveness in other fields, but have not been readily investigated in healthcare. This study examines teamwork-SMMs to understand how interprofessional teams coordinate care when discharging patients.

Methods This mixed methods study examined teamwork-SMMs of inpatient interprofessional discharge teams at a single hospital. For each discharge event, we collected data from the patient and their discharge team (nurse, physician and coordinator) using interviews and questionnaires. We quantitatively determined the discharge teams’ teamwork-SMM components of quality and convergence using the Shared Mental Model Scale, and then explored their relationships to patient-reported preparation for posthospital care. We used qualitative thematic analysis of narrative cases to examine the contextual differences of discharge teams with higher versus lower teamwork-SMMs.

Results The sample included a total of 106 structured patient interviews, 192 provider day-of-discharge questionnaires and 430 observation hours to examine 64 discharge events. We found that inpatient teams with better teamwork-SMMs (ie, higher perceptions of teamwork quality or greater convergence) were more effective at preparing patients for post-hospital care. Additionally, teams with high and low teamwork-SMMs had different experiences with team cohesion, communication openness and alignment on the patient situation.

Conclusions Examining the quality and agreement of teamwork-SMMs among teams provides a better understanding of how teams coordinate care and may facilitate the development of specific team-based interventions to improve patient care at hospital discharge.

  • teamwork
  • transitions in care
  • organizational theory
  • decision making
  • teams

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