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Interdisciplinary Team Meetings in Practice: an Observational Study of IDTs, Sensemaking Around Care Transitions, and Readmission Rates



Interdisciplinary teams (IDTs) have been implemented to improve collaboration in hospital care, but their impact on patient outcomes, including readmissions, has been mixed. These mixed results might be rooted in differences in organization of IDT meetings between hospitals, as well as variation in IDT characteristics and function. We hypothesize that relationships between IDT members are an important team characteristic, influencing IDT function in terms of how members make sense of what is happening with patients, a process called sensemaking


(1) To describe how IDT meetings are organized in practice, (2) assess differences in IDT member relationships and sensemaking during patient discussions, and (3) explore their potential association with risk-stratified readmission rates (RSRRs).


Observational, explanatory convergent mixed-methods case-comparison study of IDT meetings in 10 Veterans Affairs hospitals.


Clinicians participating in IDTs and facility leadership.


Three-person teams observed and recorded IDT meetings during week-long visits. We used observational data to characterize relationships and sensemaking during IDT patient discussions. To assess sensemaking, we used 2 frameworks that reflected sensemaking around each patient’s situation generally, and around care transitions specifically. We examined the association between IDT relationships and sensemaking, and RSRRs.

Key Results

We observed variability in IDT organization, characteristics, and function across 10 hospitals. This variability was greater between hospitals than between teams at the same hospital. Relationship characteristics and both types of sensemaking were all significantly, positively correlated. General sensemaking regarding each patient was significantly negatively associated with RSRR (− 0.65, p = 0.044).


IDTs vary not only in how they are organized, but also in team relationships and sensemaking. Though our design does not allow for inferences of causation, these differences may be associated with hospital readmission rates.

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Contributors: We acknowledge the contributions of the Department of Veterans Affairs employees who participated in this study, and the directors and chiefs of staff who supported this work. We also thank Musarrat Nahid for her work on this study.


This work was funded by the Department of Affairs Health Services Research & Development Services Grant #HSR1-031-12W. The views expressed do not reflect the position of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Correspondence to Luci K. Leykum MD, MBA, MSc.

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Leykum, L.K., Noël, P.H., Penney, L.S. et al. Interdisciplinary Team Meetings in Practice: an Observational Study of IDTs, Sensemaking Around Care Transitions, and Readmission Rates. J GEN INTERN MED (2022).

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KEY Words

  • care transitions
  • readmissions
  • interdisciplinary teams
  • sensemaking