Context: A key aim of reforms to primary health care (PHC) in many countries has been to enhance interprofessional teamwork. However, the impact of these changes on practitioners has not been well understood.
Objective: To assess the impact of reform policies and interventions that have aimed to create or enhance teamwork on professional communication relationships, roles, and work satisfaction in PHC practices.
Design: Collaborative synthesis of 12 mixed methods studies.
Setting: Primary care practices undergoing transformational change in three countries: Australia, Canada, and the USA, including three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec).
Methods: We conducted a synthesis and secondary analysis of 12 qualitative and quantitative studies conducted by the authors in order to understand the impacts and how they were influenced by local context.
Results: There was a diverse range of complex reforms seeking to foster interprofessional teamwork in the care of patients with chronic disease. The impact on communication and relationships between different professional groups, the roles of nursing and allied health services, and the expressed satisfaction of PHC providers with their work varied more within than between jurisdictions. These variations were associated with local contextual factors such as the size, power dynamics, leadership, and physical environment of the practice. Unintended consequences included deterioration of the work satisfaction of some team members and conflict between medical and nonmedical professional groups.
Conclusion: The variation in impacts can be understood to have arisen from the complexity of interprofessional dynamics at the practice level. The same characteristic could have both positive and negative influence on different aspects (eg, larger practice may have less capacity for adoption but more capacity to support interprofessional practice). Thus, the impacts are not entirely predictable and need to be monitored, and so that interventions can be adapted at the local level.
Keywords: interprofessional care; primary health care; research synthesis; teamwork.