The difference between integration and collaboration in patient care: results from key informant interviews working in multiprofessional health care teams

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. Nov-Dec 2009;32(9):715-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2009.10.005.


Objectives: Despite the growing interest in integrative health care, collaborative care, and interdisciplinary health care teams, there appears to be little consistency in terminology and clarity regarding the goal for these teams, other than "working together" for the good of the patients. The purpose of this study was to explore what the terms integration and collaboration mean for practitioners and other key informants working in multiprofessional health care teams, with a specific look at chiropractic and family physician teams in primary care settings.

Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 16 key informants until saturation was obtained in the key emerging themes. All interviews were audiorecorded, and the transcripts were coded using qualitative content analysis.

Results: Most participants differentiated collaboration from integration. They generally described a model of professions working closely together (ie, collaborating) in the delivery of care but not subsumed into a single organizational framework (ie, integration). Our results suggest that integration requires collaboration as a precondition but collaboration does not require integration.

Conclusions: Collaboration and integration should not be used interchangeably. A critical starting point for any new interdisciplinary team is to articulate the goals of the model of care.

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Interviews as Topic*
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Patient Care*