How Care Coordination Improves Patient Satisfaction
Why Care Coordination and Why Now?
Care coordination is fundamental to the Accountable Care Act goals of improving the quality of care for individual patients and populations. The growing complexity of providing care, increasing numbers of patients with chronic disease, and exploding healthcare costs highlight the need for improved care integration through the efficient and effective use of resources without increasing expenditures. Care coordination is also a key aspect in the evolution of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) looking to integrate accountability, incentives and quality measurement.
While methods of care coordination can differ, the core of any approach is the same: to facilitate delivery of the necessary healthcare services in the proper order, at the right time and in the correct setting. Ultimately, coordination of care can lower costs, improve outcomes and increase patient satisfaction.
The Benefits of Care Coordination
The benefits of care coordination extend not only to patients, but also to physicians, payors and all the components of a healthcare system. For a wide variety of settings and diverse patient populations, the results of effective care coordination are notably similar for both the patient and the system:
• Improved overall patient satisfaction
• Improved quality of care
• Improved clinical outcomes and reduced costs
• Fewer readmissions and significant increases in survival
• Fewer unnecessary emergency department visits and hospitalizations
• Reduced inpatient and overall charges
• Significant decreases in medication costs
Care Coordination benefits also extend beyond patients to the system, as well:
• Increased referrals/orders
• Improved revenue and hospital utilization
• Lower IT infrastructure cost
• Improved margins
• Increased market share
A system’s ability to process patients quickly and accurately, focus on care, establish fair payment schedules, and provide timely information on treatment results can greatly improve outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Reducing Costs & Increasing Patient Satisfaction
Healthcare spending in the United States has risen dramatically in the past two decades, largely because of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Numerous studies have documented that a relatively small percent of patients account for the vast majority of spending — all too often due to inadequate care, poor communication and weak adherence by patients. A decade of research has produced evidence that care coordination is effective in achieving both improved beneficiary outcomes and reduced expenditures. These initiatives have the potential to significantly increase patient satisfaction.
The fragmentation of services for chronically ill patients has led to inadequate coordination of care across settings and providers. This often results in medication errors, unnecessary or repetitive diagnostic tests, and preventable emergency room visits. Many readmissions result from preventable complications and mismanagement. These coordination failures not only hurt patients and their loved ones, but also contribute to higher costs.
Several strategies for reducing costs through care coordination have been developed to address these issues. These tactics range from the use of electronic health records and health information exchanges designed to ensure that each treating physician has access to the patient’s most current medications, lab and imaging results, consults, etc., to adopting concierge medicine, where a physician may literally accompany the patient to each visit to a specialist.
Overall, care coordination means fewer unnecessary services, more comprehensive care, lower costs and ultimately, greater patient satisfaction.
Care Coordination: A Physician Engagement Opportunity
Physician Engagement is becoming increasingly important as hospitals and independent medical practices seeking accountable care rapidly merge into larger entities. As a result, coordinated care is emerging as a physician engagement tool and a means to achieve both physician and patient satisfaction.
Gaps in communication across care sites undermine care coordination and integration, especially in a multi-provider model. This fragmentation leads to higher costs and lower satisfaction for both the patient and the provider due to additional episodes and additive redundancies.
An effective care coordination plan provides physicians the communication needed to excel and keeps patients satisfied by delivering the information and care needed to get well. It also drives value to physicians through new patient acquisition, downstream revenue into specific service lines for the organization.
Collaboration & Communication: Improving Both Patient and Physician Satisfaction
Care teams commonly include individuals from different disciplines contributing specialized knowledge and reacting to situational demands rather than traditional hierarchical roles. An ideal relationship between health professionals would result in collaborative problem-solving and a quality of care that would not have been possible individually. When information flows efficiently, all aspects of care can improve significantly.
Patient satisfaction is driven in large part by the satisfaction of the internal customer — the physician. Physician satisfaction builds a foundation for patient satisfaction. Coordination of care and the resulting improved communication increases both patient and physician satisfaction.