Care coordination improves communication to make the healthcare system a safe, coherent place. Without care coordination, patients can get “lost in the system.”
So what exactly is care coordination? One of the most commonly cited definitions come from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Care coordination is a function that helps ensure that the patient’s needs and preferences are met over time with respect to health services and information sharing across people, functions, and sites.
Nurses have been coordinating patient care for years. But only in the past few years have experts recognized care coordination as central to:
- Improved healthcare quality and patient experiences
- Fewer readmissions
- Lower costs
Nurses at the point of care have never been busier. Patients are sicker, technology is more complicated, and documentation requirements are expanding. So how can you engage these very busy nurses in care coordination? Here are a few strategies.
Create a forum for discussion
Are your nurses aware of key factors that affect the bottom line, such as readmission rates and reimbursement? Do they have access to patient satisfaction survey results? Talk to your nurses and share the results of these findings. Ask the question, “What can we being doing to improve outcomes?” Create and nurture a culture that says, “It all starts with me.”
Identify key people in the organization who are enthusiastic and engaged in care coordination activities. Ask these nurses to form and lead small groups. Consider how these leaders may create new care coordination models.
Share the consequences
What happens if care coordination does not effectively take place and care is fragmented? How will an increased readmission rate affect reimbursement and the institution’s financial bottom line? Define what successful care coordination is, and identify the criteria for success. Let your staff know the how consequences will affect them.
Are your nurses operating at the “top of license”? In other words, are RNs performing tasks or skills that could be carried out by a less credentialed employee? If nurses are not practicing at the highest level of their education, time is taken away from care coordination activities. Examine staffing issues and the nurses’ willingness to delegate.
Do the nurses have the right tools to perform care coordination effectively? Are patient teaching materials clear and easy to follow? Is the right technology at hand to coordinate care? Are policies and procedures based on evidence? Provide nurses with the right tools.
Care coordination is revolutionizing quality care. But engaging you staff in care coordination takes time and effort. By providing thoughtful leadership and a supportive work environment, you can guide your staff to bring care coordination to their everyday practice.
McDonald KM, Schultz E, Albin L, et al. Care Coordination Measures Atlas. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2011. Available at http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/long-term care/resources/coordination/atlas/index.html.