As I talk to many providers across the country about how to transform to value-based care, the conversation inevitably turns to the need for care coordination and care management. With many Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiatives including the recently announced Comprehensive Primary Care Plus program emphasizing the need for better care coordination, many providers have concluded that they need to evolve how they deliver care for high risk or at risk patients. This is both exciting and a little bit scary. The hard part is figuring out the right way to go about it given that there is no single blueprint that works for all providers.
One of the best written articles on care coordination that I’ve seen was this one written by Patti Oliver, RN, BSN and Susan Bacheller, BA. I could not agree more with Oliver and Bacheller when they say there is a growing movement toward greater care coordination, as more health systems realize there are better ways to deliver care:
“From our combined experience, we both know how critically important it is to have good care coordination in any healthcare system or arrangement, including ACOs. Care coordination helps providers to form a complete picture of a patient’s overall heath and it also allows them to be able to better communicate with the patient, their family, and with each other. Care coordination also requires constant prioritization and re-prioritization of patients for effective panel management; it means applying art and science to split attention between patients with immediate needs and those ripe for preventive measures or patients we regard as healthy working adults”
Oliver and Bacheller then explored the essential functionality that care coordination software should deliver naming the following five features:
- Care coordination tools should be tailored to your patient population.
- Care coordination tools should have a single place the care coordinator can visit to get the full picture at the panel and patient levels.
- Care coordination tools must allow for convenient use of clinical pathways and be flexible for the care coordinator.
- Care coordination tools need to have strong communication features among providers to facilitate care hand-offs and to involve family/caregivers when appropriate.
- Care coordination tools should integrate with other systems—or at least be straightforward about their ability to do so.
These five items are solid foundational features to seek when it comes to care coordination and care management tools. Having worked closely with providers to identify their requirements for success in coordinating care across the continuum, I would also respectfully highlight a few other key areas.
Workflow automation – as most organizations are looking to scale their population health initiatives, one of the biggest challenges is how to manage large populations given constrained resources. One of the key components to look for in software is the ability to automate time-consuming manual workflows so that the care team can work more efficiently and also at top-of-license. Care management software should be able to auto-generate care plans and assign tasks based on patient answers to assessments.
Evidence-based guidelines – While flexible clinical pathways are important, so is the need to ensure consistency of care. This is especially true for more complex, co-morbid patients who often require care from a larger care team. Care management solutions should help reduce variation of care by embedding evidenced-based guidelines directly into care workflows to guide action. Tools should also be able to help identify best practices so that they can be shared throughout the care team.
Support for multiple programs – Care management technology requirements vary by program. For example, in the CMS Chronic Care Management program, providers must be able to track and report on time spent per month on core care management processes. For the Bundled Payments For Care Improvement (BPCI) program, providers need to be able to transition and track patients to post-acute care. Look for flexible care management solutions designed to support multiple programs so that you can maximize your return on investment.
As Oliver and Bacheller noted in their article, many new technology solutions for care managers are starting to appear. It can certainly be confusing given the broad range of features and different classes available (i.e. enterprise to basic). Ultimately, identifying the right solution will depend on your organization’s specific goals and the scope of what you are trying to achieve with population health. I look forward to having more conversations with providers this year about how they want to transform care.
 Patti Oliver, RN, BSN; and Susan Bacheller, BA. ACOs: What Every Care Coordinator Needs in Their Tool Box. American Journal of Managed Care. 9.24.15.