Working with Harris Poll, CareMore Health recently surveyed 1,005 patients over age 65 and found a critical need for improved care coordination, particularly with patients managing chronic conditions.
When asked who coordinates their care, 34 percent of respondents said a family member does, and 35 percent said no one provides them with care coordination. The results were particularly troubling because most of the patients surveyed were prime candidates for care coordination and the benefits it brings. 85 percent had been diagnosed with at least one chronic illness, and 64 percent had seen three or more providers in the past year alone.
The Absence of Coordinated Care
Especially when multiple providers are involved, if no one is coordinating care or if care is being coordinated ineffectively, there is a greater possibility that patient safety will be compromised.
For example, how well will medications be reconciled, if reconciled at all? Without the sharing of health information and medical records, is the patient more likely to receive unnecessary duplicate tests and treatments? Will care be fragmented, making less sense to a patient, and making them less likely to follow instructions?
It’s a situation that can be compounded by a particular situation as well, such as when a patient is taken to an emergency room or is admitted to a hospital. 63 percent of seniors surveyed who had ever been hospitalized indicated they had no one to help coordinate their care during the first few months after a hospital stay.
The Good and the Bad
There were many positive things to report from the survey:
- 95 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the quality of care their healthcare provider gave (for 85 percent of respondents, this was their primary care physician or the staff of a primary care provider’s office)
- 75 percent said their healthcare provider takes an active role in helping them manage their health
- 84 percent said their provider gives them support to help them live a healthier life
- 82 percent considered the staff at their provider’s office, including the doctor, as partners in helping them take care of their health
- 93 percent said the provider usually engages in dialogue with them (making sure they understand what they are saying, speaking clearly, or answering their questions)
But there were sometimes caveats. For example, 61 percent of seniors said that, during all or most appointments, their doctors ask them if they understand their treatment instructions, but only 43 percent said they were asked about treatments or medications prescribed by other doctors.
Missing Pieces of the Puzzle
As many in the industry are becoming increasingly aware, when one doctor adds medications, schedules treatments, or seeks to diagnose medical conditions without having a complete picture, or “master dashboard,” of the patient’s health, it can be difficult to connect the dots and feel confident a course of action is the right one to take.
Physicians aren’t the only ones who become keenly aware of the challenges this can create. Several respondents indicated there needed to be better communication in coordinating their care. 28 percent said they wanted someone to call them regularly to ask if they have questions about their treatments or medications. And 52 percent said they wanted their physician to provide access to people or programs, like a chronic disease management program, that could help them understand their treatment plans and manage their health.
What Would Help Seniors Lead Healthier, Happier Lives?
Many respondents would also like their healthcare providers to offer or connect them with programs that meet certain needs, such as identifying community resources where they could interact with peers, community activities to help them stay healthy, or people or programs that could help with issues like diet, nutrition, and exercise.
One in ten seniors said they didn’t always have reliable transportation to and from the doctor’s office for appointments. And when respondents were asked if they felt it was just as important for a healthcare provider to offer transportation to appointments as it was to monitor blood pressure, 32 percent of seniors said it was.
Care Coordination, Communication, and Access
To ensure your patients get the between-visit care they deserve, choose care coordination services that provide 24/7/365 access to a clinical team that can answer your patients’ questions; support them with regular follow-up calls, medication reconciliation, and appointment scheduling; help them arrange transportation for medical appointments; and identify or connect them with social, medical, and community resources.