Inter professional education 2.0: training chronic disease management professionals online

The economic costs associated with chronic diseases are significant, particularly in an era of reduced public funding and greater government accountability.  I would argue that inter-professional education (IPE) is going to emerge as a key component in the successful management and prevention of chronic diseases.  Yet true inter-professional education requires a radical rethinking of the way we currently train health professionals.

While I support the argument for more inter-professional collaboration in healthcare training, which includes the integration of training in business, engineering and computer science, I would also argue that successful inter-professional collaboration and education is incomplete without the inclusion of the patient as both a key stakeholder and full participant in the educational process.  I believe medical students and other healthcare workers must learn about chronic disease from the patient’s perspective.  If true inter-professional education is to have any measurable success it needs to put the patient in the front of the classroom – not just as clinical examples, but as sources of expert knowledge.

Others have also been critical of IPE initiatives in Canada and have gone so far as to identify two key barriers to effective IPE:

1) Systems which work against collaboration – Education and health systems work against collaboration through, for example, differing models of practice, discipline-specific departments, management structures and priorities, and institutional structures and priorities.

2)Trainee Inexperience – Healthcare providers enter the program with little prior expertise in addressing complex societal issues such as interpersonal difference, fear of change, stereotypes, power, income differentials, status, language, gender and allegiance to one’s profession

I believe the answer lies in the creation of a separate institute removed from the administrative and professional silos inherent to the traditional academic institution.  Instead, the proposed institute should be focused solely on chronic disease management and prevention, and not just an add-on department/program at a traditional institution.  I would add that this institution should be focused at the graduate level and not the undergraduate for reasons outlined above in point 2.

Lastly, IPE programs must extend their reach by taking advantage of new opportunities presented by innovative online delivery models.

Chronic diseases are often complex and require smooth collaborative interaction between a variety of healthcare providers with the knowledge, skills and awareness of both patient needs as well as the political and economic constraints which directly or indirectly impact on a patient’s health and social well being.

In my opinion it has never made more sense to meet this healthcare challenge with an innovative solution for higher education.

For the successful management and prevention of chronic disease I argue that we need to radically rethink the way we currently educate our health service workers and invest in IPE 2.0 through an online graduate institute for chronic disease management and prevention.

For a full explanation please see the paper I published with my colleague Neil Seeman in Healthcare Quarterly.

The comments section is closed.

  • Linda Wilhelm says:

    Unfortunately The Health Council of Canada doesn’t have any members to provide them with the perspective of the patientoOev. I am a patient who has received extensive training to facilitate The Chronic Disease Self Management Program. When Health Professionals educate patients on managing chronic disease patients may dismiss much of what they are told. The Health Professional doesn’t understand just how difficult managing a chronic condition is. When a peer facilitates the session, there is a personal understanding of living with a chronic disease and successful management techniques that patients can see worked for others.

  • Health Council of Canada says:

    The Health Council of Canada’s recent report, Self-management support for Canadians with chronic health conditions: A focus for primary health care, explores how self-management support including how primary health care providers could improve outcomes for their patients by learning how to use behaviour change strategies and other specific approaches and tools for self-management support that they can incorporate into their practices.


  • Andrew Holt says:

    Will much of this debate seem quaint in a few years when the next generation of learners habitually reach out to whatever source of information and other people they need through various professional and public social media?

    How do we ensure the timely access to quality of information and inter professional interactions in an increasingly connected world? It will be interesting to see how the individuals in each of the health professions and the patients and communities they support adapt to this rapidly emerging reality.

    So far the sales of Smartphone, google, wi-fi tablets … have sky rocketed across both patient and professional communities. How will professional training and licensing programs adapt to this new environment of hyper connected people to ensure the constructive transformation of health and social services? Does this new reality provide an opportunity to break down many barriers to inter-professional training and collaboration? For example, could remote outpost nursing and medical clinics that operate around the globe be supported by various health professional colleges to reduce the professional and personal isolation that often contributes to the high turnover rates and recruitment problems often experienced? Can patients in these same remote and rural setting access the leading information sources anywhere in the world to deal with their immediate health concern? A networked world will require health professionals that are comfortable and thrive in inter professional settings in addition to maintaining their specific professional expertise. How do we best support this transition already underway?

  • Elizabeth Hanna, MHSc, Reg CASLPO says:

    Powerful points.
    Challenging to operationalize. Working in an institution that specailizes in this are, I look forward to reading the full paper,


Jake Pringle


Jake Pringle is a clinician, a part-time instructor at Ryerson’s School of Health Services Management and a part-time doctoral student studying higher education management at the University of Bath in the UK.  Jake blogs at jakepringle.com.

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