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Multidisciplinary vs. Interdisciplinary Teamwork: Becoming a More Effective Practitioner


Both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teamwork have been used in healthcare in the past. However, although there is a clear difference between the two approaches to care, many educational researchers and practitioners use these terms interchangeably. The fundamental difference lies in the collaborative care plan that is only developed in interdisciplinary patient interventions, as multidisciplinary care does not emphasize an integrated approach to care.

Multidisciplinary teams are unable to develop a cohesive care plan as each team member uses his or her own expertise to develop individual care goals. In contrast, each team member in an interdisciplinary team build on each other’s expertise to achieve common, shared goals. Therefore, it is crucial to indicate that multidisciplinary teams work in a team; whereas, interdisciplinary teams engage in teamwork.

An interdisciplinary care plan is developed by answering these questions:
1. What are the issues?
2. Who will be involved?
3. What will the interventions be?
4. What are the goals of the intervention?
5. When will re-evaluation occur?

Therefore, interdisciplinary care must occur to bring about improved patient outcomes such as more efficient practice, an increased individualized and patient-centred approach and improved quality in care. If healthcare professionals do not have the same intervention goals, patients may suffer. Therefore, if practitioners focus on a single, shared goal, a patient will be more successful in receiving the care that they require.

In addition, the need for interdisciplinary care is increasing as a result of:
• A growing aging population with chronic and complex needs
• The increasing knowledge and skill required to provide comprehensive care to patients
• The increasing specialization in healthcare fields
• The growing encouragement to develop multi-faceted teams in healthcare, and
• The increased emphasis on continuity in care planning.

Therefore, changes in practice approaches and interventions need to take place to advocate for the use of integrated care plans. With a growing aging demographic and the development of more complex health problems, it is crucial that interdisciplinary care is used in all areas of the healthcare field. Interdisciplinary care aims to be an all-inclusive resort to meet the unique care needs of individuals. It is considered to be the “Hallmark of Geriatrics”; therefore, it must be represented in practice to improve quality and efficiency of care to all individuals.


Walter C. Chop Regular H. Robnett, ed., Gerontology for the Health Care Professional, ed. (Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010).

Andrew Booth, Steven Ariss,Tony Smith, Pam Enderby,and Alison Roots4 Susan A Nancarrow, “Ten principles of good interdisciplinary team work,” Human Resource Health, 2013: 1-11.

Written by Megan Ferguson


Megan Ferguson is the Ageing and Gerontology Staff Writer. She is a BSW student at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB. Megan is currently pursuing a specialization in aging and is interested in working in the field of geriatrics, addiction or mental health.

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