What is Care Coordination

In recent years, the term “care coordination” has become a buzzword. Individuals in the health and human services, such as social workers and health care physicians, may have heard of the need to “coordinate care” with other providers or prevent “information silos”. But what does this mean? What is care coordination? 

To answer this question, experts suggest thinking about a wedding. In a traditional wedding celebration, there are multiple pieces in action—the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, the reception, and the honeymoon. For each piece, many players are at work, including the bride, groom, family members, caterers, and venue operators, just to name a few.  

Each piece and player fulfill an important role to ensure the success of the wedding. To accomplish this goal, everyone must be aware of their role and communicate with each other to make sure everything is on track. It is easy to imagine that without enough planning and communication (such as making sure the mother-in-law knows she is supposed to pick up the cake), things can quickly go sour (there is no cake to cut!).  

For big events like weddings, there is typically a wedding planner. This person makes sure everyone knows their job and that no one is wasting their efforts. They confirm with the venue and remind the catering staff to begin preparing food. With the wedding planner, the event goes smoothly. Without one, things start to get messy. 

Coordinated care is a lot like a wedding planner, where the wedding is a successful health outcome for patients. When each player communicates with each other, they can accomplish a lot more (for a lot less) and make sure people receive the best care possible.  

Definition of Coordinated Care

So, what is care coordination? In basic terms, care coordination is the synchronized effort of health and social care providers to help a single patient receive comprehensive, integrated care. The term is used interchangeably with coordinated care. 

Care coordination is the synchronized effort of health and social care providers to help a single patient receive comprehensive, integrated care. 

Care coordination is simple: make sure that all the doctors and social services share relevant information, like test results and medications, so that they can effectively serve the same patients. However, it is a lot more complicated in practice. Each organization may have their own process of record keeping, information sharing, and result delivery. Additionally, some may be more organized than others.  

A common problem primary providers express is that they receive little to no insight from the specialists they refer their patients to. How are the treatments going? What prescriptions are they now on? These primary providers usually rely on the patient to relay this information, but a lot of the important details are lost in the process. 

Interestingly, many specialists acknowledge the same issue with primary providers. Without critical test results, they often re-run the same expensive tests, costing the patient time and money. 

When you add in social services—homeless shelters, food banks, domestic violence support centers, etc.—the problem only multiplies. Each of these services needs coordinated care to share information and save time and resources. 

According to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), coordinated care is “a team sport”. When all players start working together, the results can be impressive. 

Benefits of Care Coordination

There is ample evidence suggesting that care coordination, when done properly, can save significant time and money for both patients and providers. 

The Institute of Medicine has deemed coordinated care a key strategy to improve effectiveness, safety, and efficiency for the American healthcare system. Likewise, NEJM purports that up to 11% of total cost can be eliminated simply by integrating a form of care coordination into regular community practice. Other sources say or suggest that number can even be as high as 35%.  

Some of the biggest benefits of care coordination include: 

  1. Decreasing duplicate services 
  1. Lowering the overuse of more intensive procedures 
  1. Decreasing preventable hospital admissions and re-admissions 
  1. Improving overall patient experiences 
  1. Reducing financial cost for the patient, the programs, and insurance (if applicable) 
  1. Offering more comprehensive, inter-disciplinary care 

Notwithstanding these benefits, less than 10% of health services report being fully coordinated. Clearly, there is room for growth through the health and human services industry to better coordinate care with other providers. 

Effective Care Coordination

The good news is that implementing coordinated care is fairly straightforward. It begins by establishing connections with other community providers and working on smooth referral and communication processes. 

For many situations, a nurse or social worker is well situated to oversee the coordination process. However, this does not mean that the entire burden should fall upon a single person or organization. Rather, true coordination comes when all players are willing and able to put in equal effort for the sake of their patient. 

Another word often associated with care coordination is case management. Some people often use these words interchangeably, but they are actually two distinctly different ideas. While care coordination refers to the process of synchronized efforts by providers, case management is defined as the tool to help care coordination take place. 

Think of case management as the technology and platform that organizations can utilize to share the information they need for coordinated care. Research shows that powerful and effective case management is essential to establishing lasting care coordination. 
ClientTrack is the leading case management platform for care coordination. Operating in areas across the country, ClientTrack’s powerful features allow multiple programs to work together and ensure that critical patient information is not siloed away from other organizations.  

To begin your journey towards effective care coordination today, reach out for a ClientTrack demo. Together, we can help your organization better care for the communities and individuals you serve. 

Enjoy This Article? Then You’ll Like: 

Care Coordination Software 

Social Determinants of Health 101 

Sources Used 

  1. https://www.managedhealthcareconnect.com/articles/care-coordination-today-what-why-who-where-and-how    
  1. http://www.improvingchroniccare.org/index.php?p=Care_Coordination&s=326 
  1. https://catalyst.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/CAT.18.0291  
  1. https://www.ahrq.gov/ncepcr/care/coordination.html#:~:text=Care%20coordination%20involves%20deliberately%20organizing,safer%20and%20more%20effective%20care 

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