Focus Topics

topic 1 | Activity 1: What is a multidisciplinary approach to care?

Individuals with life-limiting illnesses often have complex and multifaceted needs. [1] In most cases, these needs are best managed using a multidisciplinary approach to care that includes opportunities for multidisciplinary discussions and care planning. [1-5]

Effective multidisciplinary care embeds collaborative and patient-centred approaches to care planning and provision, and leads to the achievement of care goals that are unlikely to be achieved by health professionals acting in isolation. [3, 4]

Benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to care include:

  • Increased patient perception that their care is being managed by a team
  • Greater likelihood of the delivery of care in accordance with national standards and clinical practice guidelines
  • Increased patient satisfaction with care
  • Increased access to information, psychosocial and practical support for patients. [1, 6]
  1. In your own words describe what is meant by multidisciplinary care.
  2. Describe an example from your own experience where a multidisciplinary approach to care was provided. In thinking about this example, identify:
    • who was involved
    • why this approach was used
    • what benefits were achieved by this approach
    • what challenges were associated with this approach?
  1. Kuziemsky, C.E., Borycki, E.M., Purkis, M.E., Black, F., Boyle, M., Cloutier-Fisher, D., Fox, L., MacKenzie, P., Syme, A., Tschanz, C., Wainwright, W., Wong, H., and Interprofessional Practices Team. (2009). An interdisciplinary team communication framework and its application to healthcare ‘e-teams’ systems design. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 9(1), 43-57
  2. Palliative Care Australia. (2003). Palliative Care: Service Provision in Australia: A planning guide. 2nd edition. Canberra: Palliative Care Australia. Retrieved 30 May 2011, from
  3. Meier, D.E., Beresford,L. 2008. The palliative care team. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 11(5), 677–681
  4. Mitchell, G., Tieman, J., Shelby-James, T. (2008). Multidisciplinary care planning and teamwork in primary care. Medical Journal of Australia. 21; 188(8 Suppl):S61-4.
  5. Baldwin, P. K., Wittenberg-Lyles, E., Oliver, D.P., Demiris, G. (2011). An Evaluation of Interdisciplinary Team Training in Hospice Care. Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing. 13 (3), 172-182, DOI: 10.1097/NJH.0b013e31820b5c16Article
  6. National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre. (2008). Multidisciplinary care principles for advanced disease: a guide for cancer health professionals. Surry Hills, NSW: National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre.