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Research in Progress

ABIM conducts research in a number of emerging areas that are important for understanding concepts such as the physician-patient dynamic, systems in health care delivery, new and improved methods of assessment, and the role of medical education in improving the quality of care. One of our research studies in progress is described below:

Developing an Assessment for Physician Competency in Teamwork

In 2008, ABIM researchers began a multi-year project to answer these questions and to develop a tool for physicians to evaluate their teamwork:

  • What makes a physician an effective member of the health care team?
  • Can physicians assess their own skills at working as part of a team?
  • What role can the broader team play in helping physicians to assess themselves?

Background: All health care is delivered by teams – even just a two-person “team” of a physician and a patient – but this fact is rarely recognized. Even in hospitals, where teamwork is necessary and constant, professionals rarely get the information and support they need for good teamwork. To understand teamwork from the internal medicine perspective, we worked with experts in the field, observed internal medicine health care teams in action; and interviewed physicians and some of the other professionals with whom they work (nurses, therapists, social workers, etc.) about what good teamwork means for physicians in the hospital.

All this research showed us just how complicated and challenging teamwork can be for internal medicine physicians, both in primary care and in hospital settings. Their work is complex and demanding, and they can be under great financial pressure to keep to themselves and simply see as many patients as possible, even if this means never really talking to the others in their practice or hospital. We also learned what physicians’ team members expect from the doctors with whom they work to care for patients – most importantly, they need physicians to understand and respect the role everyone can play in caring for patients.

Creation of Teamwork Tool: We drew on this research to create Teamwork Effectiveness Assessment Module, or TEAM, which walks physicians through the process of:

  • Assessing their own teamwork skills
  • Identifying their interprofessional team
  • Gathering feedback data from their team members
  • Working with someone from their team (or a trusted peer) to compare that feedback with their own self-assessment and analyzing what they should do to maintain or improve their own teamwork

TEAM is currently available to diplomates in the Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine program as part of an extended pilot test. ABIM is actively studying its satisfaction and effectiveness among hospitalists who have used it through interviews with completers.

Results to Date: So far, more than 80 physicians have completed the TEAM during the current pilot, and many more are in progress. Initial interviews with completers revealed that the module provides helpful and actionable information to physicians about their teamwork skills. Physicians and team members alike appreciate the ability to share feedback and help the entire team improve.

Next Steps: To fully analyze the data from our pilot test, including conducting additional interviews to determine the long-term impact of the module, and explore how to improve this tool. ABIM plans to make TEAM available to MOC-enrolled hospital physicians and, perhaps, eventually to other physicians and health care professionals as well.