The Collaborative Ideal in Healthcare Delivery: Its Rise, Practice and Future

July 2016-June 2021

Grant Team

Elise Paradis

Heather Boon, Dean and Professor, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy

Sioban Nelson, Vice Provost and Professor, Bloomberg School of Nursing

Sal Spadafora, Vice Dean and Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Cynthia R. Whitehead, Director of the Wilson Centre and Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine


Current Students

Patricia J. Leake

Umesh Poopalarajah


Over the past decades collaboration has emerged as a key solution to healthcare’s challenges, from fatal errors to escalating costs. Since the failure of collaboration causes a large proportion of reported errors and adverse events, improving collaboration to improve patient outcomes makes intuitive sense, and Canadian governments, institutions of higher education and hospitals have invested time, money and personnel resources to improve collaborative practice.

Yet the literature connecting collaboration with positive outcomes is exceedingly sparse and inconclusive, and despite decades of investment in collaborative practice and interprofessional education, uncertainty remains as to whether collaborative practice leads to improved patient care. Is collaboration really the panacea it is portrayed to be? Or is it an ideal – a collaborative ideal – that will stay forever out of reach?

This project’s goals are to examine the rise and impact of the collaborative ideal and to develop the evidence base necessary to shape the future of collaboration among Canadian healthcare professionals through policy and education. Our project is inspired by, and will contribute to, neo-institutional theory, a sociological theory of cultural change that has traditionally focused on the macro-level diffusion of ideas, and under-appreciated the importance of everyday actions in creating culture (i.e., the “micro-to-macro link”).

Our specific research aims are:

1. Mapping the Past. Document the historical rise of the collaborative ideal as a solution in healthcare delivery in Canada using an ethnographic content analysis approach to textual analyses and key informant interviews;

2. Understanding the Present. Explore ethnographically, through interviews and observations, how healthcare professionals perceive and practice the collaborative ideal at the University of Toronto and in the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (UT/TAHSN);

3. Shaping The Future. Using our team’s expertise and an integrated knowledge translation (iKT) strategy, transform findings into an innovative and evidence-based Action Plan to improve collaboration and education.

Last updated: July 21, 2016.