Background: Patient care is a complex activity which demands that health and social care professionals work together in an effective manner. The evidence suggests, however, that these professionals do not collaborate well together. Interprofessional education (IPE) offers a possible way to improve collaboration and patient care.
Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of IPE interventions compared to education interventions in which the same health and social care professionals learn separately from one another; and to assess the effectiveness of IPE interventions compared to no education intervention.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group specialised register, MEDLINE and CINAHL, for the years 1999 to 2006. We also handsearched the Journal of Interprofessional Care (1999 to 2006), reference lists of the six included studies and leading IPE books, IPE conference proceedings, and websites of IPE organisations.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), controlled before and after (CBA) studies and interrupted time series (ITS) studies of IPE interventions that reported objectively measured or self reported (validated instrument) patient/client and/or healthcare process outcomes.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently assessed the eligibility of potentially relevant studies, and extracted data from, and assessed study quality of, included studies. A meta-analysis of study outcomes was not possible given the small number of included studies and the heterogeneity in methodological designs and outcome measures. Consequently, the results are presented in a narrative format.
Main results: We included six studies (four RCTs and two CBA studies). Four of these studies indicated that IPE produced positive outcomes in the following areas: emergency department culture and patient satisfaction; collaborative team behaviour and reduction of clinical error rates for emergency department teams; management of care delivered to domestic violence victims; and mental health practitioner competencies related to the delivery of patient care. In addition, two of the six studies reported mixed outcomes (positive and neutral) and two studies reported that the IPE interventions had no impact on either professional practice or patient care.
Authors' conclusions: This updated review found six studies that met the inclusion criteria, in contrast to our first review that found no eligible studies. Although these studies reported some positive outcomes, due to the small number of studies, the heterogeneity of interventions, and the methodological limitations, it is not possible to draw generalisable inferences about the key elements of IPE and its effectiveness. More rigorous IPE studies (i.e. those employing RCTs, CBA or ITS designs with rigorous randomisation procedures, better allocation concealment, larger sample sizes, and more appropriate control groups) are needed to provide better evidence of the impact of IPE on professional practice and healthcare outcomes. These studies should also include data collection strategies that provide insight into how IPE affects changes in health care processes and patient outcomes.