What Exactly Is Coordination of Care?

Lea Chatham August 6th, 2013

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From Patient Centered Medical Home to Meaningful Use, the phrase coordination of care has been coming up a lot in recent years and for good reason. One of the great challenges in healthcare is coordinating care from one provider or location to another. It is not unheard of for patients to be referred for the same test or service more than once or for a health issue to slip through the cracks because of a lack of communication between providers.

According to an article from Kaiser Health Network (KHN) in collaboration with The Washington Post, “Advocates for hospital patients and their families say confusion about who is managing a patient’s care — and lack of coordination among those caregivers — are endemic, contributing to the estimated 44,000 to 98,000 deaths from medical errors each year.”

The federal government seems to agree, which is why they have included improvements in coordination of care in the Meaningful Use incentives. In a hospital setting there is often a hospitalist who is responsible for taking on the coordination role, but who does it for care that takes place outside of the hospital? Many believe that primary care providers may fit the bill.

Primary care providers can help coordinate care because of their ongoing relationship with and understanding of the patient’s health and history. They are uniquely positioned to bring together information from various providers and ensure better care for the patient. To encourage primary care providers to take on a coordination role, there are programs that provide incentives for coordination with positive results.

  1. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs): Local providers voluntarily work together to coordinate care and communicate with each other.
  2. Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative: The Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative is a partnership between Medicare and other insurance programs and organizations to help selected primary care providers and their practices provide additional resources to improve the quality of care. Primary care practices can use these resources to make improvements to their practice, like hiring new staff and updating technology to better coordinate their patients’ care.
  3. Meaningful Use: One of the components of Meaningful Use is coordination of care with other providers. Included in the core objectives are requirements around care coordination. In Stage 1 providers must be capable of exchanging clinical information with other providers. In Stage 2, providers who transition or refer a patient to another setting of care or provider of care to provide a summary of care record.
  4. Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH): The Patient Centered Medical Home is a healthcare setting that facilitates partnerships between individual patients, and their personal physicians, and when appropriate, the patient’s family. Care is facilitated by registries, information technology, health information exchange and other means to assure that patients get the indicated care.

If you are a primary care provider and you are interested in getting more involved in one of these models, you can learn more by clicking on the links. If you do choose to participate in one or more of these programs there are incentives if you meet certain criteria. To meet most of these requirements, you’ll need an electronic health record system. HealthIT.gov provides a detailed overview of how an EHR can help you improve coordination of care.

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