What Is Care Coordination? Benefits and Trends

January 17, 2023

Research and Markets report that 80% of clinical errors were related to poor care coordination during the transition. 

The healthcare system is fragmented. Often, patients do not understand why they need to see a doctor, schedule an appointment, or follow up with their care. On the other hand, specialists don't always learn why patients are referred to them by primary care physicians. 

Consequently, the primary care provider does not get any information from the specialists after the visit.

Therefore, care coordination is an essential aspect of healthcare since it correlates with health data and optimizes care delivery.

What Is Care Coordination?

Care coordination is a patient-centric model of care where all participants involved in a patient's care collaborate and share information to achieve a safer and more effective outcome. 

It refers to the process of exchanging data between care team members using a centralized yet interoperable IT platform that facilitates real-time communication across the care continuum. 

A key objective of care coordination is to reduce health care costs by reducing the number of redundant tests and procedures while developing synergistic relationships among medical professionals.

Coordinated care includes the following components.

  • Effortless access to a range of healthcare providers and services
  • Effective communications between providers and smooth transitions in care plans
  • Patient-centered care 
  • Patient-friendly information that is clear and straightforward

Benefits of Care Coordination

In the healthcare system, care coordination could make a big difference if it is applied effectively. The following examples illustrate how it could be beneficial:

1. Eliminate fragmented care

Systems can be disjointed within a healthcare system. It is not uncommon for processes to vary, sometimes widely, from one part of the organization to another, especially from one specialty site. Coordinating care could solve this problem and make the experience more cohesive.

2. Properly communicate referrals

Often, patients are unclear why their primary health care provider referred them to a specialist. Coordinating care can aid in making appointments and ensuring follow-up after visiting a specialist.

3. Interaction between primary healthcare providers and specialists

Both parties involved in a referral process may have difficulty communicating with each other. Specialists should get precise information about any tests already performed and the reasons for the referral. For primary care physicians to respond to and adjust treatment plans following a referral visit, they must receive all relevant information from a referral visit.

4. Ensure the safety of information

A variety of processes and providers cause referral staff to lose important information frequently. By coordinating patient care, snafus with lost records are prevented, making care more efficient.

Care Coordination Examples

The different levels of care coordination exist to guide a patient through the various care delivery steps. They are:

1. Primary Care

An RN might take charge of patients with multiple chronic health conditions as part of a 'guided primary care' approach in some organizations. The nurse coordinates the care with the primary care provider and other specialists to ensure that nothing is left out. As well as supporting better adherence to the plan of care, it can also lower the overall cost.

2. Acute Care

An acute care coordination team is involved in every stage of critical or emergency patient care, from prehospital to post-hospital care, from the moment of the patient's initial emergency to days after they leave the hospital. 

Professionals responsible for acute care coordination ensure patients receive appropriately prescribed medications, explain care instructions to patients and their families, and typically follow up with patients after leaving the hospital. 

Coordinating acute care aims to decrease the number of people returning to the hospital.

3. Post-Acute Care

During transitions between levels of care, medication and care plans may change for patients who are also residents in a nursing facility. There is a risk of inadequate care transitions for this population. 

In this context, care coordinators ensure all involved understand the patient's care plan, have the correct goals, and advocate for when it comes to maintaining the best quality of life possible.

Trends in Care Coordination

The concept of care coordination continues to evolve as a result of many emerging trends. They include value-based healthcare, mHealth, and telemedicine. 

1. Value-Based Healthcare

Through value-based care coordination, primary care doctors can access all of their patients' doctors, including information about medications and lab tests prescribed. 

The benefit of this is that primary care physicians can develop plans to improve their patients' health and possibly save them money—value-based care rewards medical professionals who achieve specific healthcare goals with bonuses. 

The healthcare model benefits patients since it focuses on quality rather than on doctors gaining more patients.

2. mHealth

Mobile health (mHealth) involves using mobile technologies in medical care. mHealth aims to inform consumers about preventive healthcare services through mobile devices. In addition to disease surveillance and treatment support, mHealth also allows for tracking epidemic outbreaks, chronic disease management, and epidemic outbreak tracking.

3. Telemedicine

Telemedicine is a real-time communication system that allows doctors and patients to speak through video and audio. 

Compared to office visits, this is a more cost-effective alternative. 

Patients also save money by avoiding traveling to a doctor's office for routine or follow-up appointments. However, telemedicine's most crucial benefit is availability, and it is vital for people living in rural areas, where healthcare is difficult to access.

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