Interprofessional education (IPE) for health professionals is an initiative that involves students from different health professions learning with, from, and about each other with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of patient care. IPE programs emphasize teamwork, understanding other professions’ roles and responsibilities, respectful communication, and clinical experiences delivering interprofessional collaborative care. While the IPE concept has been around since the early 1970s, interest in IPE has escalated only in the past several years.
The core concept animating IPE -- that no single profession can optimize patient care – is gaining both substantial federal government and private foundation support, as well as support from health professions schools, and is poised to become the theoretical and practical foundation of health care education, research, and care going forward. According to recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports, "Interprofessional, team-based care has the potential to improve care coordination, patient outcomes, and produce cost savings." Yet, there remain challenges, as the IOM reports also note that "most health care professionals are not trained to work in either intra- or interdisciplinary teams."
IPE gives us the opportunity to reinforce the link between oral health and systemic health and to overcome dentistry’s previous isolation from medical care. Also, since the other professions’ knowledge of basic oral health is limited, they have the opportunity to learn from us. And because our students are learning to work together, it is predictable that collaboration, including referrals, will become more frequent when both professionals go into practice.