Illusions of team working in health care

Michael A. West, Joanne Lyubovnikova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The ubiquity and value of teams in healthcare are well acknowledged. However, in practice, healthcare teams vary dramatically in their structures and effectiveness in ways that can damage team processes and patient outcomes. The aim of this paper is to highlight these characteristics and to extrapolate several important aspects of teamwork that have a powerful impact on team effectiveness across healthcare contexts. Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws upon the literature from health services management and organisational behaviour to provide an overview of the current science of healthcare teams. Findings: Underpinned by the input-process-output framework of team effectiveness, team composition, team task, and organisational support are viewed as critical inputs that influence key team processes including team objectives, leadership and reflexivity, which in turn impact staff and patient outcomes. Team training interventions and care pathways can facilitate more effective interdisciplinary teamwork. Originality/value: The paper argues that the prevalence of the term "team" in healthcare makes the synthesis and advancement of the scientific understanding of healthcare teams a challenge. Future research therefore needs to better define the fundamental characteristics of teams in studies in order to ensure that findings based on real teams, rather than pseudo-like groups, are accumulated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-142
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Health Organization and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


  • teamwork
  • errors
  • collaboration
  • health care
  • patient safety
  • team effectiveness
  • team processes
  • team working
  • teams


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