A Brief Guide to OT Interprofessional Practice

A Brief Guide to OT Interprofessional Practice

Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Interprofessional Practice (IPP) are beneficial for healthcare consumers and healthcare providers.

Al Roker from The Today Show publicly stated how his Autistic son, Nick, improved after receiving occupational and speech therapy services. Research shows that Autistic children benefit from a combination of both therapies. A collaborative approach to treatment creates better outcomes for the child and their families. However, children are not the only population that benefits from a collaborative, teamwork-focused approach known as interprofessional practice (IPP).

Recommended course: Interprofessional Collaboration and Communication Between Healthcare Directors

An article on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website cites that 95% of speech therapists and audiologists participate in IPP because it improves client outcomes. Many healthcare providers, such as doctors, physical therapists, and occupational therapists (OTs), participate in IPP for the same reason because of IPPs benefits. In addition to participating in IPP, the same providers also often engage in interprofessional education (IPE).

What is IPP?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines IPP as a collaborative practice that occurs when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work with patients, families, carers, and communities to deliver the highest quality of care across settings.

What are the core competencies of IPP?

  • Values and ethics for interprofessional practice. Work with individuals of other professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values.
  • Roles and responsibilities. Use the knowledge of one’s role and those of other professions to appropriately assess and address clients' healthcare needs and promote and advance the health of populations.
  • Interprofessional communication. Communicate with clients, families, communities, and professionals in health and other fields responsively and responsibly. This supports a team approach to promoting and maintaining health and preventing and treating disease.
  • Teams and teamwork. Apply relationship-building values and the principles of team dynamics. This allows professionals to perform effectively in different team roles to plan, deliver, and evaluate client- and population-centered care and population health programs and policies that are safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable.

What is IPE?

WHO says interprofessional education (IPE) occurs when two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes.

What are some benefits of IPP and IPE?

  • Improves client outcomes
  • Reinforces client skills by providing additional practice with multiple disciplines
  • Increases communication between disciplines
  • Increases the knowledge of multi-disciplinary teams

How can IPP and IPE be implemented?

  • Co-treating with other disciplines
  • Exchanging treatment ideas within the scope of each discipline's practice
  • Observe treatments of other disciplines
  • Schedule treatment sessions with intention. Determine if it is better to have one discipline right before another. For example, children with sensory processing deficits may benefit from OT before speech sessions to receive the necessary input to increase attention during a speech session.

Self-care treatments

Eating is a complex task consisting of getting the food to the mouth, chewing, and swallowing. While many of us do this multiple times a day without thinking, a child may be delayed with their eating and feeding skills for many reasons. These delays can be caused by:

  • Difficulty using eating utensils or finger feeding due to poor hand-eye coordination, poor fine motor skills, or poor executive functioning skills. An OT can work on hand-eye coordination, fine motor strength, and the upper body coordination needed to bring the food from the plate to the child’s mouth. The OT can make recommendations for adaptive feeding equipment as necessary. The SLP can use that equipment during feeding sessions in speech. OTs and SLPs can work on the planning and sequencing skills needed to complete this part of the task.
  • Sensory processing difficulties can affect a child’s ability to tolerate food textures. Sensory processing differences during mealtimes can result in a child gagging, vomiting, or refusing to eat. The OT and SLP can collaborate to determine which textures are appropriate for the child, considering any pertinent medical circumstances. OTs can use evidence-based sensory integration techniques to increase the child’s tolerance to food textures.

Improving outcomes for social-emotional challenges

Self-regulation is an essential building block for maintaining future relationships and managing emotions. A child without language may have difficulty with self-regulation, resulting from frustration of not having their needs adequately met. A child with sensory processing difficulties can display poor self-regulation skills in environments with stimuli they poorly tolerate.

SLPs help provide a means to communicate OTs can identify sensory processing differences in children. Both SLPs and OTs can teach and support the child with safe and effective self-regulation techniques.

The importance of asking questions

Facilitating collaborative, client-centered care can be achieved by asking questions of the team and by having each healthcare provider reflect on what information they should be sharing.

Examples of IEP and IPP facilitating questions include:

  • What parent and/or client education is being provided by each discipline?
  • What techniques are working well?
  • What techniques are not working so well?
  • What educational resources (articles, books, continuing education, etc.) are available/appropriate for each discipline?
  • What are the client goals for each discipline?
  • What terminology is being used for cues or medical explanations for optimal client understanding?
  • When would it be appropriate to add additional skill set challenges?

Client-centered, outcome-based healthcare measures

IPE and IPP are beneficial for healthcare consumers and healthcare providers. It can be incorporated as a best practice for all disciplines and all patient populations. Using a multi-disciplinary approach to care warrants the use of both IPP and IPE to optimize client outcomes.


This article was written by Jami Cooley

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