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Current Opinion in Psychiatry:
Services research and outcomes

Is a team approach based on staff meetings cost-effective in the delivery of mental health care?

Burns, Tom; Lloyd, Helen

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Purpose of review: Multidisciplinary teams in mental health have developed in parallel with the demise of large asylums in the developed world. Their growth has been pragmatic, largely atheoretical and relatively unresearched, reflecting the clinical view that input from a variety of professions is required to meet the needs of patients suffering from mental illness. Despite the ubiquity of multidisciplinary teams, little research has evaluated what components of teamwork (e.g. team meetings) are more effective.

Recent findings: A recent Cochrane review demonstrated that a team approach was beneficial to healthcare processes in general medicine, and several studies have suggested that multidisciplinary teamwork improved patient and carer outcomes in elderly psychiatry. Research has also demonstrated that quality of life in severely mentally ill substance abusers increased with a shift from interdisciplinary to multidisciplinary practice between health and social care professionals.

Summary: Expert opinion and clinical experience (and limited research) suggest that teamwork is beneficial to both patients and carers. However, it is self-evident that multidisciplinary teamwork is costly and not without its own problems. In a climate of limited resources, it is reasonable to question the effectiveness (cost and otherwise) of multidisciplinary teamwork in mental health. The current research and clinical interest in comparing different types of teams could be significantly advanced by targeted studies on the costs and benefits of some of the core components of teamwork. Such research is required to promote much needed improvements.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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