What is a Multidisciplinary Team? Exploring Diverse Teamwork

By terminology alone, it is common to equate multidisciplinary and cross-functional teams. Both bring together multiple disciplines, working together towards a common goal. Each employs expertise that is task-oriented and closely coordinated.

But what is a multidisciplinary team? And does it differ from a cross-functional team? Further, why are multidisciplinary teams most common in the healthcare sector, while cross-functional teams relate primarily to the business setting?

A businessperson works on a laptop

Interdisciplinary teams see greater outcomes than traditional siloed structures

What is a multidisciplinary team?

A multidisciplinary team comprises professionals from different disciplines who come together to provide comprehensive care and support for patients or clients. The team works collaboratively, each member bringing their specialized skills and expertise to develop and implement coordinated services and care plans tailored to the individual’s unique needs.

Key characteristics of multidisciplinary teams

The characteristics of a multidisciplinary team approach are very similar to cross-functional teams. These characteristics include the following.

Diverse expertise

The team includes professionals with complementary skills from fields like medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, nutrition, pharmacy, therapy, and more. This diversity provides a holistic perspective.

Shared goals

While members have different roles, the team works towards common goals for the client’s health and well-being. There is a shared purpose.

Collaborative approach

Open communication, regular meetings, and consensus building facilitate joint decision-making and care coordination.


The patient and family are integral members of the team. Their values and preferences help guide the care plan.

Coordinated care

The team works together to provide integrated services and continuity of care across settings. Duplication and gaps in care are avoided.

Benefits of the multidisciplinary approach

There are many benefits to utilizing multidisciplinary evaluation and care teams in healthcare, including:

  • Comprehensive expertise: Combining expertise from different fields allows holistic, integrative care.
  • Improved outcomes: Evaluation process, care coordination, and collaboration enhance quality of care and patient outcomes.
  • Patient-oriented: Care aligns with the patient’s values, preferences, and goals.
  • Efficient: Duplication of services is reduced, saving time and resources.
  • Education: Team members can learn from each other and share knowledge. Special education and training may also be available.
  • Satisfaction: Both patients and staff report greater satisfaction with collaborative models.

Example of a multidisciplinary team

Jake is a 54-year-old man recently diagnosed with lung cancer. His care team includes:

  • Oncologist: Oversees the cancer treatment plan and provides chemotherapy. In this multidisciplinary team, the MD may also be the care coordinator.
  • Radiation Oncologist: Plans and administers radiation therapy.
  • Thoracic Surgeon: Performs biopsy procedures and surgery if needed.
  • Pulmonologist: Assesses lung function and manages respiratory symptoms.
  • Nurses: Administer treatment, monitor side effects, and provide patient education.
  • Social Worker: Provides counseling and mental health checkups, helps with insurance, and arranges transportation. If the patient is younger, the Social Worker might check their eligibility for special education, working with a Special Education teacher or a General Education teacher in their school district. They may also educate the patient’s family on potential care and accessibility requirements.
  • Dietitian: Recommends nutritional guidelines and meal plans.
  • Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist: Helps maintain physical strength and mobility during treatment. Prepares the patient to return to normal day-to-day life.
  • Palliative Care Specialist: Manages pain and other symptoms and provides emotional support.

This highly diverse medical and allied health team collaborates to provide coordinated care tailored to Jake’s needs. Their expertise allows them to develop a comprehensive treatment plan while also addressing Jake’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. Regular communication among team members facilitates information sharing and a coordinated approach to Jake’s care.

What is the difference between a multidisciplinary and cross-functional team?

The above explored what a multidisciplinary team is. No significant differences exist between a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or cross-functional team. However, you will likely hear the use of multidisciplinary more so in the healthcare field. Also, there are potential slight variances, including the following:

  • Multidisciplinary team members are typically outside specialists or consultants from various organizations. Cross-functional teammates are nearly always insiders from the same organization.
  • Multidisciplinary team members focus on achieving results in their specialty area. Their goals are narrow, and their role is complete once they attain a specific outcome. They may not work with the same team twice. Cross-functional teams work on organizational objectives, and their goals relate to broader aims. Teams often have their mandate extended, possibly adjusted, or completely pivoted while maintaining the same member composition.
  • Multidisciplinary team communications flow via a coordinator. They operate in silos with limited direct interaction. Cross-functional teams share information and emphasize direct, near-constant collaboration, usually face-to-face, and communication is open across a seemingly flat structure.
  • Multidisciplinary teams have a designated leader to direct specialized professionals. Cross-functional teams often self-manage with shared or rotating leadership.
  • Multidisciplinary teams offer deep domain knowledge with various perspectives. Cross-functional teams enable speed, alignment, and innovation across departments. They also cross-pollinate and potentially work outside of scope as their skills evolve. This cross-pollination is not common in healthcare, given the highly specialized nature of each team member’s skill set. Occupational Therapists will not learn a Physical Therapist’s duties and execute them.
  • Multidisciplinary teams can experience coordination difficulties across disciplines. A cross-functional team may encounter conflicts between departments with different priorities.

The example of Jake’s care notes this last stark difference: A multidisciplinary team has one goal, and their specialties’ collective successes help the team achieve their goal. That one goal is the best patient care possible. Cross-functional team members may have competing priorities, making their goals unclear. Fortunately, healthcare teams use the multidisciplinary approach.


A multidisciplinary team is a diverse group of professionals who work collaboratively to provide coordinated, patient-centered care. This comprehensive approach leads to improved quality of care, enhanced service delivery, and better patient outcomes. Effective communication, mutual respect, and shared purpose are keys to successful multidisciplinary teams, especially in healthcare.

Meridian University’s MBA in Creative Enterprise is a current, relevant, and thoughtful program that combines classical, modern, and progressive leadership practices. Building from a foundation of Emergent Thinking in the Creative Economy (MBA 755), Conversational Leadership (MBA 714), or Leading a Creative Enterprise (MBA 746), our MBA program prepares graduates with whole-person and whole-system competencies that benefit both the leader and society as a whole.

If you want to learn more about this program, contact one of our Admissions Advisors. If you are ready to take that next big step in leadership, apply online today!

Frequently asked questions

What is meant by multidisciplinary team?

A multidisciplinary team is a group of professionals from different disciplines and specialties collaborating to provide comprehensive patient care. The team members contribute their expertise individually to evaluate, diagnose, and holistically treat the patient.

What are three characteristics of a multidisciplinary team?

Three key characteristics of a multidisciplinary team are:

  • Diverse expertise: The team includes members with complementary skills from various fields like medicine, nursing, therapy, social work, etc.
  • Shared goals: While roles differ, the team works towards common goals for the patient’s health and well-being.
  • Collaborative approach: Open communication and consensus building facilitate joint decision-making and coordinated care.


Taberna, M., Moncayo, F. G., Jané-Salas, E., Antonio, M., Arribas, L., Vilajosana, E., Torres, E. P., & Mesía, R. (2020). The Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Approach and Quality of Care. Frontiers in Oncology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2020.00085

Social Care Institute for Excellence (2023, March 1). What are multidisciplinary teams? Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://www.scie.org.uk/integrated-care/research-practice/activities/multidisciplinary-teams

Cross-functional team. (2023, October 20). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-functional_team

Fleming, L. (2024, January 1). Perfecting Cross-Pollination. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://www.scie.org.uk/integrated-care/research-practice/activities/multidisciplinary-teams

Learn More

Interested in learning more about the programs at Meridian?

Contact An Advisor »Attend an Info Session »
learn more about meridian xllearn more about meridian lglearn more about meridian mdlearn more about meridian sm

San Francisco Bay Area Center

47 Sixth Street
Petaluma, California 94952
+1 (707) 765-1836

Los Angeles: Water Garden Campus

2450 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, California 90404
+1 (310) 876-2001

Athens Center

Ermou 56
Athens 10563, Greece
+30 21 1199 0060

Berlin Center

Greifswalder Strasse 226
10405 Berlin, Germany
+49 30 16637734

Johannesburg Center

Atrium on 5th 9th Floor
5th St, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa
+27 31 822 9032

Istanbul Center

Mecidiyeköy Mahallesi | Lati Lokum Sokak
Çınar Apt. No: 12, Kat: 4, D: 14
Şişli/İstanbul 34387
+1 (833) 256-2295

Meridian University Logo