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.