Improving care coordination has become a primary goal for many of America’s healthcare facilities. A number of factors are behind this — the expanding use of technology, for instance, as well as the increasingly siloed nature of the care continuum and complex reimbursement guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Add all of these factors up, and you get an environment where care coordination is exceedingly difficult — and getting more so each year. To that end, the 2019 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians has found that primary care in the United States falls far behind other Western nations in its ability to successfully coordinate with other specialties and departments.
“Fewer than half (49%) of U.S. primary care providers receive information from specialists about changes to their patients’ care plans or medications, compared to at least seven of 10 in Norway, France, and New Zealand,” the report authors state.
“Similarly, about half of U.S. physicians said they are usually notified when a patient visits an ED, compared to more than 80 percent in New Zealand and Norway.”
The survey also found that only about four in every 10 U.S. doctors “frequently” coordinate patient care with social workers and community providers. And, although American doctors perform well when it comes to utilizing technology to communicate with patients, “problems of interoperability” create challenges in the exchange of “patient summaries, test results, and medication lists.”
How Failure to Improve Care Coordination Affects Your Bottom Line
This problem is not a new one, of course. As part of its drive toward reimbursing value-based care, the U.S. government has long seen the need to improve care coordination throughout the nation’s fragmented system. The Medicare Care Coordination Improvement Act of 2017, for instance, was an attempt to facilitate coordination by exempting certain payment models from referral restrictions.
Yet despite these efforts by the government — and sometimes, arguably because of them — the goal of improving care coordination continues to be a significant challenge for many healthcare facilities.
And it isn’t an abstract problem: Poor coordination impacts quality of care. And that, in turn, negatively affects a facility’s ability to secure the kind of patient satisfaction that leads to operational success in a competitive and fragmented marketplace, where the rise of consumer-based urgent care services and home-based telehealth solutions have given consumers more power to choose where they receive care.
How Healthcare Managed Services Can Help Improve Care Coordination
Yet if it’s easy to define the problem, it’s not so simple to find a solution. Improving care coordination is a complex, organization-wide initiative. It requires careful and deliberate effort from managers and administrators to make sure that all services are fully integrated and that communication is not only encouraged but mandated, both within the organization and with any affiliated or referring facilities.
But as difficult as a total solution may be, make no mistake: There are concrete steps managers can take to take their facilities closer to the goal of improving care coordination. By partnering with a healthcare managed services provider (MSP), for instance, you can help your facility streamline important parts of its processes and communications that make the larger goal of full coordination.
How do MSP services help meet this goal? For starters, it helps you bring together the otherwise fragmented process of onboarding, training, managing, and coordinating a variety of healthcare professionals, from nurses and therapists to social workers and psychologists, and even managers and HR professionals.
Consolidating your workforce processes makes it easier to attract and retain high-profile talent, and to simplify administrative processes such as rate negotiation, contracting, and invoicing. But it does more than that: It also helps you achieve greater operational efficiency and reduce administrative costs, which gives your leadership team more room to work toward the goal of improving care coordination.
In addition, MSP services help you customize your employee onboarding process to better develop the care coordination among all of your workers. When you partner with a leading healthcare managed services provider, you can choose to implement a uniform onboarding process that applies to each new hire. And that lets you prioritize care coordination on an organization-wide basis.
Finally, MSP programs help you standardize vendors and technological systems on an organization-wide basis, which is an important tool for improving overall care coordination. When you have one universal tech system, you can establish a set of universal procedures throughout your organization to make sure that failure to understand technology isn’t causing any breakdown in the lines of communication.
Make the Move Toward Improving Care Coordination Today
“The United States pays more for healthcare than any other country,” as Michelle M. Doty, MPH, PhD., lead author of the Commonwealth Fund report, puts it in a summary of the survey from Managed Healthcare Executive.
“Despite progress in using health information technologies, our primary care doctors often lack the tools to coordinate patient care and referrals with hospitals and specialists as well as with social service agencies,” Dr. Doty adds. “We must do more to strengthen primary care and improve communication across care settings.”
Thanks to healthcare managed services, that goal may be more in reach than you think. MSP can help you take an important step toward improving care coordination, while also gaining greater returns on your investments in hiring, technology, infrastructure, and vendor management.