Importance of an Interprofessional Team Approach in Achieving Improved Management of the Dizzy Patient

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Abstract

Background:

Because of its multifaceted nature, dizziness is difficult for clinicians to diagnose and manage independently. Current treatment trends suggest that patients are often referred to the otolaryngologist for intervention despite having a nonotologic disorder. Additionally, many individuals with atypical presentations are often misdiagnosed and spend a significant amount of time waiting for consultation by the otolaryngologist. Few studies have alluded that implementation of an interprofessional team approach in the diagnosis and management of the dizzy patient can improve clinical decision-making. However, to the authors' knowledge, there is no information specifically quantifying the outcomes and potential benefits of using an interprofessional balance care team approach.

Purpose:

To compare dizziness diagnoses trends and referral practices with and without the use of an interprofessional management approach within a university healthcare system.

Research Design:

Over the course of a 3-yr period, a retrospective review of the diagnosis and management of dizziness was performed with and without implementation of an interprofessional team. To observe potential differences, year 3 incorporated the interprofessional management approach while years 1-2 did not. The two periods were then compared to each other.

Study Sample:

A total of 134 patients referred to a university hearing clinic for a vestibular and balance function evaluation.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Diagnoses and management trends were examined with descriptive statistics (percentages and frequencies). Fisher's exact tests, analysis of contingency tables, were conducted to evaluate the influence of interprofessional management on dizziness diagnoses and treatment patterns.

Results:

Results demonstrated that before implementation of an interprofessional team approach, (1) referring clinicians used unspecific dizziness diagnosis codes (e.g., dizziness and giddiness), (2) a low number of patients with dizziness were referred for balance function testing, (3) diagnoses remained unspecific following the balance function assessment, and (4) the most frequently occurring vestibular diagnoses were unilateral vestibular hypofunction and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Following the use of an interprofessional management approach, it was determined that (1) disease-specific diagnoses increased, (2) patients with dizziness were referred for balance function testing mainly by otolaryngologists, (3) dizziness was considered to be multifaceted for a greater number of patients, (4) a larger percentage of patients were referred to a specialist other than the otolaryngologist as a result of their diagnosis, and (5) patients reported reduction or resolution of their symptoms.

Conclusions:

An interprofessional management approach for the dizzy patient can lead to more specific diagnoses and provide alternative referral pathways to other health-care professionals (e.g., audiologists, physical therapists, and pharmacists) in an effort to reduce over-referral to one specialist. Future studies should address the utility of an interprofessional team approach in the overall management of patients with dizziness.

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