IPE Between ICOM, ISU to Elevate Health Care in Idaho

Photo Caption: Alex J. Adams, PharmD, MPH addresses students during IPE at ICOM on September 26, 2018.

The collaboration and expertise arising from two higher education titans in Idaho is expected to elevate patient care in the Gem State.

The public-private partnership between Idaho State University and the  Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM), Idaho’s first medical school, has allowed for interprofessional education— also known as IPE — between student doctors and students studying other professions in health care. 

“IPE has existed at ISU for about 20 years and expands across 30 programs in the health sciences” said Dr. Patricia Marincic, Associate Vice President for the Idaho State University-Meridian Health Science Center. “With the addition of ICOM, we’re now able to incorporate the physician perspective.”

IPE refers to students from two or more professions in health and social care learning together as part of their professional training, with the goal of cultivating collaborative practice for providing optimum care for patients. 

This inter-institution initiative encompasses not only ICOM and ISU-Meridian, but also ISU’s campuses in Pocatello and Anchorage. ICOM’s state-of-the-art facility hosts the group of 332 students, both physically and through distance learning, during eight sessions throughout the year. Before beginning clinical rotations at various hospital systems during their third year of study, ICOM students will have had 16 IPE experiences.

“We’re bringing everyone involved to the table, in terms of aspiring health care professionals who will one day care for patients — it’s that complex,” said Dr. Luke Mortensen, ICOM’s Chair of Pharmacology, Physiology and Pathology, and Affiliate Faculty at ISU. “As IPE has grown, particularly in this country, it has shifted its focus toward quality improvement, accountability and patient safety.”

During the current IPE set-up, aspiring physicians in ICOM’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program interface with students in ISU’s pharmacy, physician assistant studies, and speech and language pathology programs. However, administrators at both schools see this initiative expanding to also bring nursing and physical therapy students to the table, as well. 

“Our goal is to make some change, and the challenge is to change the culture of practice,” Dr. Mortensen said. “Health care should be a two-way conversation between experts and patients.”

Both Drs. Marincic and Mortensen say the conversation around the health of a patient shouldn’t end when they leave their appointment. Rather, physicians need to interface with pharmacists regarding medication management, or with physical or occupational therapists to explore treatment options, for example. They say this strong referral network in the health care field, which begins with IPE, has the potential to reduce medical error.

“The reality is, most health care professionals are not practicing this way, and I think doing so would open a door to patients demanding these other services if they’re not receiving them,” Marincic said.

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