Nurse care coordinators are a special breed, with many choosing the profession out of the desire for greater patient intimacy and the chance to spend more time educating and coaching patients toward a path of a healthier, happier life. In the new era of accountable care, where patients will take greater ownership of their health, the kind of patient advocacy that care coordinators bring to the table is just what the doctor ordered.
But in the wake of accountable care, the care coordinator’s role has become less proactive patient coach and more reactive administrator. Increases in nurse-to-patient ratios, more panels of chronically ill patients, and steady cost pressures are giving many care coordinators pause as they slide down the ladder and operate at ever-lower rungs of their license.
The typical care coordinator’s day is consumed with responding to alerts they’ve set up to manage their most critical patients and there’s only time for broad-brush education, like the “watch your diet” variety. If accountable care is truly about getting patients to take greater ownership, the dosage of intimacy and advocacy should be increased, not decreased.
So how can we help solve the care coordinator’s dilemma?
This is the question the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), in partnership with West Corporation and West Health, is solving today. On the heels of its CMS Innovation Award, VUMC embarked on an innovative, technology-driven project with West with three goals:
- Increase care coordination efficiency
- Raise the number of patients receiving services
- Enable care coordinators to spend more valuable time with patients
The approach? Technology-enabled care applications that offload care coordinators with automated interactions that empower and activate patients, as demonstrated in this video. Sure, communication like automated phone calls to patients to remind them of their appointments, or two-way SMS messages to collect blood pressure and other readings, may seem simple and obvious at first blush. But it is what’s under the covers that VUMC and West believe could represent the future of care coordination in particular, and population health management in general.
Envisioned is a sophisticated coordinated care management protocol engine that combines evidence-based medical guidelines with automated workflows and patient outreach. Think of it as a “clinical brain” with multi-modal communication capabilities. The whole process will not only free care coordinators and their counterparts from the monotony of administrative, low-value tasks, but smarter, protocol driven patient communication will reduce practice variation and improve the quality of care and lower the cost of delivering care overall.
If you are a provider, how are you solving the care coordinator’s dilemma?