Designing for effective and safe multidisciplinary primary care teamwork: Using the time of covid-19 as a case study

Lisa Lim, Craig M. Zimring, Jennifer R. Dubose, Jaehoon Lee, Robert J. Stroebel, Marc R. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Effective medical teamwork can improve the effectiveness and experience of care for staff and patients, including safety. Healthcare organizations, and especially primary care clinics, have sought to improve medical teamwork through improved layout and design, moving staff into shared multidisciplinary team rooms. While co-locating staff has been shown to increase communication, successful designs balance four teamwork needs: face-to-face communications; situational awareness; heads-down work; perception of teamness. However, precautions for COVID-19 make it more difficult to conduct face-to-face communications. In this paper we describe a model for understanding how layout affects these four teamwork needs and describe how the perception of teamwork by staff changed after COVID-19 precautions were put in place. Observations, interviews and two standard surveys were conducted in two primary care clinics before COVID-19 and again in 2021 after a year of precautions. In general, staff felt more isolated and found it more difficult to conduct brief consults, though these perceptions varied by role. RNs, who spent more time on the phone, found it convenient to work part time-from home, while medical assistants found it more difficult to find providers in the distanced clinics. These cases suggest some important considerations for future clinic designs, including greater physical transparency that also allow for physical separation and more spaces for informal communication that are distanced from workstations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8758
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2 2021


  • Architecture
  • Evidence-based design
  • Healthcare facility design
  • Patient safety
  • Staff safety
  • Teamwork


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