In the domain of paediatric and congenital cardiac care, the stakes are huge. Likewise, the care of these children assembles a group of “A+ personality” individuals from the domains of cardiac surgery, cardiology, anaesthesiology, critical care, and nursing. This results in an environment that has opportunity for both powerful collaboration and powerful conflict. Providers of healthcare should avoid conflict when it has no bearing on outcome, as it is clearly a squandering of individual and collective political capital.
Outcomes after cardiac surgery are now being reported transparently and publicly. In the present era of transparency, one may wonder how to balance the following potentially competing demands: quality healthcare, transparency and accountability, and teamwork and shared decision-making.
An understanding of transparency and public reporting in the domain of paediatric cardiac surgery facilitates the implementation of a strategy for teamwork and shared decision-making. In January, 2015, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) began to publicly report outcomes of paediatric and congenital cardiac surgery using the 2014 Society of Thoracic Surgeons Congenital Heart Surgery Database (STS-CHSD) Mortality Risk Model. The 2014 STS-CHSD Mortality Risk Model facilitates description of Operative Mortality adjusted for procedural and patient-level factors.
The need for transparency in reporting of outcomes can create pressure on healthcare providers to implement strategies of teamwork and shared decision-making to assure outstanding results. A simple strategy of shared decision-making was described by Tom Karl and was implemented in multiple domains by Jeff Jacobs and David Cooper. In a critical-care environment, it is not unusual for healthcare providers to disagree about strategies of management of patients. When two healthcare providers disagree, each provider can classify the disagreement into three levels:
• SDM Level 1 Decision: “We disagree but it really does not matter, so do whatever you desire!”
• SDM Level 2 Decision: “We disagree and I believe it matters, but I am OK if you do whatever you desire!!”
• SDM Level 3 Decision: “We disagree and I must insist (diplomatically and politely) that we follow the strategy that I am proposing!!!!!!”
SDM Level 1 Decisions and SDM Level 2 Decisions typically do not create stress on the team, especially when there is mutual purpose and respect among the members of the team. SDM Level 3 Decisions are the real challenge. Periodically, the healthcare team is faced with such Level 3 Decisions, and teamwork and shared decision-making may be challenged. Teamwork is a learned behaviour, and mentorship is critical to achieve a properly balanced approach. If we agree to leave our egos at the door, then, in the final analysis, the team will benefit and we will set the stage for optimal patient care. In the environment of strong disagreement, true teamwork and shared decision-making are critical to preserve the unity and strength of the multi-disciplinary team and simultaneously provide excellent healthcare.