Delivering Care Coordination – Part I

October 10, 2012

It’s only fitting that for our inaugural blog entry, we touch on the holy grail of health care – care coordination. A quick Google search reveals that formal care coordination initiatives have been around for at least a few decades. Numerous studies are still undertaken to find “better” care coordination models. Some of the latest efforts, such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), at their core depend upon robust care coordination.

As healthcare professionals, we learn the importance of care coordination at the academic level. This general understanding is further reinforced throughout our careers. It’s safe to say that the vast majority of healthcare organizations have developed in-house training programs and tools to facilitate care coordination. With all of the efforts directed at it, and certainly the awareness of its importance, care coordination should have been nailed by now.

Ideally, we know what needs to happen. Clinicians will actively collaborate with each other and exchange pertinent information efficiently and timely. The reality, of course, is anything but ideal. It consists of medical professionals who are overloaded managing a growing and increasingly needier patient population. There is also the economic factor. Decreasing reimbursements and rising expenses often require a boost in productivity which may simply come down to treating more patients using the same resources. In this reality, care coordination efforts will compete and must be balanced with the direct care workload.

Care coordination challenges are most acute in the home care industry. Due to its inherently multidisciplinary approach, home health care necessitates that clinicians of various disciplines collaborate and exchange information. In addition to the factors mentioned already, this is often further complicated by the fact that at least some of the clinicians, for instance physical, occupational, and speech therapists, may be contracted and lack familiarity with the care coordination protocols/tools employed by individual home health agencies. Therapy companies offering services to home health agencies can turn this deficiency into their competitive advantage if they can facilitate seamless care coordination with the rest of the care team.