Three Reasons to Hire a Care Coordinator

As a result of the new healthcare reform in the United States, many practices are investigating the benefits of adding a care coordinator or patient navigator to their staff. These employees can take on a number of responsibilities: reminding patients of upcoming appointments, following up on chronic conditions, and explaining treatment options—all of which allow for increased patient access to healthcare. In most instances, a care coordinator is a registered nurse, but social workers and other professionals can also receive training to fill this vital role.

By providing consistency and a more personal touch to patient interactions, care coordinators contribute to better quality care and the improved health of their patients. But they also benefit the practice by improving patient management and workflow, and increasing revenue.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits of employing a care coordinator or patient navigator within your practice:

Alleviate Access Problems

Nurse care coordinators help lighten a physician’s workload and provide increased access to healthcare for patients. This will become increasingly important as more people become eligible for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act beginning in 2014. With his or her skills and training, a nurse care coordinator can take on many tasks related to coordination and communication, including patient follow-ups and monitoring chronic conditions, but at a more cost-efficient salary than a physician or a nonphysician provider.

Provide Consistent Care

In order to fulfill the requirements for an ACO (Accountable Care Organization) or PCMH (Patient-Centered Medical Home), a practice must increase its engagement with patients and provide a higher level of quality care. Care coordinators and patient navigators give patients a consistent point of contact and regular communication. For patients with chronic conditions, having a dedicated staff member to schedule appointments, conduct follow-ups, and offer information ensures that they receive the ongoing attention and monitoring they need.

Boost Return on Investment

Although hiring a care coordinator or patient navigator will create an additional expense, the work they do pays for itself. A recent Medical Economics article cited a cancer care center in Cleveland, Ohio, that saw a significant improvement in their patient no-show rate after hiring two full-time navigators. In just three months’ time, the resulting revenue from that reduction in no-shows was equal to a navigator’s annual salary. That same article also mentions a healthcare system in Cincinnati that plans to expand its navigator program to 35 primary care offices after seeing a reduction in hospital admissions and readmissions—and a return of $5 for every $1 spent—after just one year.

If your practice has plans to transition into one of the new care models—or if you’re looking for ways to streamline patient communication and provide more coordinated, quality care—take time to weigh the costs and benefits of hiring a care coordinator. Creating this role will not only help your patients by giving them greater access and consistent care, but also benefit your practice with a more efficient workflow, fewer no-shows, and a stronger return on your investment.

 

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