Experiences and shared meaning of teamwork and interprofessional collaboration among health care professionals in primary health care settings: a systematic review

JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2017 Nov;15(11):2723-2788. doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2016-003016.


Background: During the last decade, teamwork has been addressed under the rationale of interprofessional practice or collaboration, highlighted by the attributes of this practice such as: interdependence of professional actions, focus on user needs, negotiation between professionals, shared decision making, mutual respect and trust among professionals, and acknowledgment of the role and work of the different professional groups. Teamwork and interprofessional collaboration have been pointed out as astrategy for effective organization of health care services as the complexity of healthcare requires integration of knowledge and practices from differente professional groups. This integration has a qualitative dimension that can be identified through the experiences of health professionals and to the meaning they give to teamwork.

Objective: The objective of this systematic review was to synthesize the best available evidence on the experiences of health professionals regarding teamwork and interprofessional collaboration in primary health care settings.

Inclusion criteria types of participants: The populations included were all officially regulated health professionals that work in primary health settings: dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical education, physiotherapy, psychology, social work and speech therapy. In addition to these professionals, community health workers, nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and other allied health workers were also included.

Phenomena of interest: The phenomena of interest were experiences of health professionals regarding teamwork and interprofessional collaboration in primary health care settings.

Context: The context was primary health care settings that included health care centers, health maintenance organizations, integrative medicine practices, integrative health care, family practices, primary care organizations and family medical clinics. National health surgery as a setting was excluded.

Types of studies: The qualitative component of the review considered studies that focused on qualitative data including designs such as phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, action research and feminist research.

Search strategy: A three-step search strategy was utilized. Ten databases were searched for papers published from 1980 to June 2015. Studies published in English, Portuguese and Spanish were considered.

Methodological quality: Methodological quality was assessed using the Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute. All included studies received a score of at least 70% the questions in the instrument, 11 studies did not address the influence of the researcher on the research or vice-versa, and six studies did not present a statement locating the researcher culturally or theoretically.

Data extraction: Qualitative findings were extracted using the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument.

Data synthesis: Qualitative research findings were pooled using a pragmatic meta-aggregative approach and the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument software.

Results: This review included 21 research studies, representing various countries and healthcare settings. There were 223 findings, which were aggregated into 15 categories, and three synthesized findings: CONCLUSIONS: This review shows that health professionals experience teamwork and interprofessional collaboration as a process in primary health care settings; its conditions, consequences (benefits and barriers), and finally shows its determinants. Health providers face enormous ideological, organizational, structural and relational challenges while promoting teamwork and interprofessional collaboration in primary health care settings. This review has identified possible actions that could improve implementation of teamwork and interprofessional collaboration in primary health care.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Patient Care Team / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Qualitative Research