Why Health Care Teams Should Consider a Patient Care Coordinator for Improved Outcomes
Imagine improving how you care for patients while reducing burnout for your care teams. What does that look like in practice?
Maybe you dream of having one cohesive view of a patient’s care plan and communication. Perhaps you want to eliminate medical errors or cut down on duplicate orders. Or, you are looking to optimize healthcare delivery and improve health outcomes for patients.
It’s not just a dream, we promise. It’s possible with patient care coordination.
Below, we’ve compiled best practices implemented by accountable care organizations (ACOs) to get you started.
What is care coordination and why is it so important?
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), coordinated care is achieved when a patient’s care is deliberately organized and information is given to all healthcare and support teams. A patient’s unique needs and preferences must be known and shared with the right people at the right time. This helps achieve patient buy-in and guides safe, appropriate, and effective care.
Why do so many health care systems struggle to coordinate patient care and, as a result, fail to meet patient’s needs? They may lack the training, care practices, and information technology required. Without good, supportive software — like Care Management software for example — patients may slip through the cracks or receive less effective, less coordinated care.
While it may take some time to implement effective patient care coordination, a well-thought-out strategy should allow you to:
- Safely share patient information (such as charts, notes, test results, imaging, etc.) to all of the patient’s healthcare providers and specialists
- Work with a wide array of specialists to create an individualized care plan
- Educate the patient about their diagnosis, treatment, and care delivery
- Help clinicians deliver appointment or treatment follow-up instructions
- Ensure that teams have the health information they need to complete orders and deliver effective care
What is the role of a patient care coordinator?
They are specially trained professionals who assist patients in navigating their care programs. They also partner with care teams to share information with primary care providers, support staff, specialists, social workers, and readmissions coordinators.
These well-equipped healthcare coordinators can make it easier to implement care plans, optimize care practices, and make life easier for all team members involved. This can streamline care delivery while improving patients’ experiences.
How does patient care coordination affect health outcomes?
When information isn’t communicated in one central place, or when patient care is siloed by specialty area, care teams can struggle to work together. Social services, community resources, insurers, and healthcare providers may struggle to communicate. This often results in potentially dangerous duplication, confusion, and lost information.
The good news is that patient care coordination can improve health outcomes and encourage patients to become more involved in their care plans.
In a study of ACOs across insurance payers, some of those outcomes included:
- Reduced use of inpatient facilities
- Reduced emergency department visits
- Improved preventive care measures
- Improved chronic disease management
Using effective coordinated care technology makes it easy to share relevant, important information between all members of a care team. It can improve relationships between clinicians and patients, which can then encourage patients to become more engaged. With more highly engaged patients comes improved outcomes — and often, lower costs.
How can care coordination improve patient satisfaction?
You already know that improving patient satisfaction can encourage patients to follow care plans, instructions, and recommendations. But, did you know that coordinated healthcare is essential to boosting patient satisfaction in the first place?
Here are the top benefits of prime care coordination.
Creates an efficient workflow
A poor workflow can bring daily work to a halt. If clinicians can’t find a health record when and where they need it, they are forced to waste time switching between tech tools or systems. Meanwhile, as they’re searching for the latest conversation or treatment plan, patients’ immediate needs and questions can get lost in the shuffle.
When you implement a good patient care coordination plan, you make workflows more efficient. Your team knows what to do and when to do it.
With efficiency comes improved time management, which means your team has the time and energy to provide the most effective care possible to every patient, every time.
Promotes better teamwork
Providing quality healthcare requires teamwork and shared information. Unsurprisingly, a systematic review found that teamwork is positively related to performance. The review calls for healthcare organizations to emphasize approaches to care that improve teamwork among providers.
When you implement quality systems, your team wastes less time. Patient-centered care coordination allows your team to rally around each patient and provide the best care for their needs.
How does coordinated care save money?
Here are a few ways well-coordinated care can nurture the financial health of your organization.
Reduces redundant treatments
Clinicians across health systems rarely communicate in a consistent, detailed manner. Unfortunately, this means that gaps are commonly found in patient health records.
Healthcare research by The Brookings Institution shows that when care team members aren’t looking at the same, comprehensive patient health record, duplication can occur. Clinicians risk ordering additional tests or re-prescribing treatments that have already been tried and failed.
Redundant, repetitive care delivery can quickly drive up costs across an entire health system. Patient care coordination reduces operational waste like redundant lab orders and testing. Without it, confused patients will have to check in — often disrupting clinicians’ schedules and wasting time.
Reduces physician burnout to prevent turnover
Poor communication and collaboration force clinicians to operate in silos, which ACOs avoid to preserve their financial health. With this additional stress and low morale, clinicians can make mistakes more often when delivering care. This can worsen health outcomes and lower the quality of life for everyone involved.
If not addressed, burnout can lead to staff either quitting or being fired for inadequate performance. This means more recruiting, hiring, and training for the healthcare organization. According to the Electronic Health Reporter, the costs associated with burnout can range from $2,500 to more than $100,000 for higher-level positions.
Properly coordinated healthcare helps prevent clinician burnout. It encourages closer working relationships between all members of a care team as they must collaborate to deliver the most effective care.
Reduces medical error expenditure
When there are gaps in the delivery of care or incomplete health information, both clinicians and patients are left feeling confused and uninvolved. This means patient needs are not being met and medical errors are more common.
In 2008 alone, medical errors cost the U.S. an estimated $19.5 billion per year — and $17 billion was directly related to additional medical costs for patients.
When healthcare providers unknowingly prescribe medications with contraindications, adverse effects can put a patient’s life at risk. Similarly, when multiple clinicians are attending to a patient, they might not respond to a patient’s urgent needs because they think another member of the team will address them.
A healthcare coordinator enables all members of a care team to easily access health information and work together to avoid these errors.
How can you provide patient care coordination?
The NEJM Catalyst Journal analyzed the delivery of care between multiple providers and specialists, then outlined four proven requirements.
- Provide easy access to a range of health care services and providers.
- Streamline all communications and care plan transitions between providers.
- Focus on the whole patient by addressing physical, emotional, social, mental, and financial needs.
- Provide simple, clear, easily accessible information throughout the patient journey.
Welkin: Helping you deliver coordinated care
Two major reasons for poorly coordinated patient care are a lack of healthcare technology and tools that are not easily integrated.
Implementing a platform like Welkin Health’s Care Management software can help keep your care teams and programs on track. Patients can develop closer, stronger relationships with their clinicians, improving their health outcomes. At the same time, clinicians can avoid burnout and deliver the right care to the right patient at exactly the right time.
Streamline care plans
A patient’s care plan shouldn’t be complicated by outdated, time-consuming systems. Welkin allows you to streamline a patient’s plan by automating actions throughout the care journey.
You can link actions to patient records in real time for all providers to see. You can also create proprietary practice templates to help manage communications. It’s simple and quick: Make updates in just a few minutes and implement them for the care team within an hour.
Then, when events are raised, such as when patients complete a form or are enrolled into a care program, actions will be automatically triggered in the Care portal. This allows clinicians to spend more time with patients instead of sending follow-up emails or making calls.
Plus, when important information is available for a patient to review, notifications and tasks are created automatically for care team members, nudging them to follow up with patients or connect with other members of the patient’s care team.
Increase your team’s efficiency
Office politics, poor management, and high turnover can lead to high levels of stress and disrupt productivity. Patient care coordinators can quickly execute tasks that pile up using Welkin’s user-friendly Care Management software. They can assign and manage repeatable tasks by configuring definitions in the Designer tool. Tasks can also be created as needed without using a task definition when flexibility is needed to provide patient-centered care.
Improve workflow management
Welkin automates and streamlines your team’s processes by logging all data directly to the patient profile. Clinicians are then guided through the stages of each patient’s treatment journey — from registration to release and every patient handoff in between.
No more worries about wasting time searching for patient records, sending the wrong records, or missing vital test results. Welkin improves efficiency and eases the team’s burden with real-time updates, reminders, and assessments.
Welkin can send notifications to care team members even when they are not actively using the application. For example, when a patient moves into a “High Risk” category, care team members need to act fast to get the patient back on track. Patient care coordinators can set up emails or SMS notifications around important events like this to keep clinicians fully updated at all times.
Enhance communication and tracking capabilities
Monitor progress remotely through logged communication. Look for communication channels your team and your patients need, such as telehealth integration, texting capabilities, or apps that allow real-time chat. Be sure you can track relevant remote patient monitoring billing codes.
Welkin allows SMS and email messages to be sent from anyone on the patient’s care team. Plus, messages received from patients — or people who are not yet patients of your program — can be reviewed and responded to within the Communication Center.
Customize and integrate your systems
Welkin can help you create a unique environment that easily joins your existing and future systems — whether with custom integrations using its robust API or with fully integrated, built-in applications. Welkin collects and logs data from wearable health devices or other patient monitoring devices to track progress throughout their care plan.
Welkin helps ensure that your patient-to-clinician ratio does not stagnate. This means your program can grow with your organization, and your Care team can see more patients over time with the same resources.
Prime care coordination requires cooperation from your team
You’ve created a coordinated care plan. Now, you need to get your entire team on board — but how?
Update your team as soon as you start implementing any coordination efforts. Hold regular meetings so you and your team can address any issues or confusion from the start.
When you and your team are on the same page, your job as a patient care coordinator will be much simpler. Plus, your patients’ experience and patient outcomes will continue to improve.
A patient care coordinator needs an effective strategy to maintain good relationships with patients. For help developing your care coordination strategy, download our free patient-centered care checklist.