“Coordination” is the new buzzword in medical care, especially among the elderly who may be managing multiple conditions and a range of symptoms. Obamacare urges providers to follow this model, and many in the healthcare world have begun to tout its virtues.
At its most basic, “care coordination” refers to the notion that when multiple caregivers treat a single patient, they should have a mechanism to freely and easily compare notes and coordinate treatments.
Failure to coordinate can be costly, driving between $25 and $45 billion in wasteful spending annually according to the latest figures from FamiliesUSA.org. On the flip side, there is mounting evidence that care coordination, when properly executed, can drive a range of outcomes including better resident care and better business results for a senior housing operation.
Improved medical outcomes are the foremost evidence of the power of care coordination. Successful care coordination reduces mortality among patients with heart failure; reduces symptoms among patients with depression; and reduces hospital admits and re-admits. This in turn reduces vacancies and lowers turnover rate, driving better business outcomes all around.
Streamlined operations are another direct result of care coordination. Automated information-sharing frees up time senior care staff might otherwise have spent on administrative tasks related to coordinating information among multiple physicians or providers. A lighter workload and less menial work means a happier staff and less turnover.
Family engagement also may see a substantial uptick as care coordination becomes more firmly entrenched across the spectrum of senior care. In today’s fragmented model it can be extremely difficult for families to understand all the treatments a loved one may be undergoing, much less the names of the various practitioners involved. Coordinated care makes it easier for family members to track the full care cycle. This leads to more family engagement overall, which again may take some of the burden off senior living staff who otherwise may struggle to keep each resident’s family informed and engaged as to their loved ones’ wellbeing.
Complex conditions may especially benefit from care coordination in senior living organizations. As senior acuity increases in the coming years, senior home operators will see an increase in the incidence of complex conditions, diseases that overlap, those that come with a wide range of symptoms, and those requiring diverse, complex treatments. The more doctors are able to coordinate their efforts, the more likely it is these complex cases will remain stable, out of the hospital, in their residence, and requiring less support from staff. That’s a win for the resident and also a boon for the senior home operator.
Empowerment for the patient is perhaps one of the most significant, if often overlooked, benefits of care coordination. The coming generation of residents – especially the Baby Boomers – will be looking for a high level of autonomy. Care coordination adds transparency, and with it a degree of empowerment and greater sense of control for residents themselves. For housing providers this can be a significant evolution: Residents who are not just healthier but, fundamentally, happier too.
Care coordination services offer substantial benefits to both senior housing operators and residents themselves, but implementing a successful program can sometimes require complex technological considerations. New digital infrastructure will soon be needed to bring together systems that until now have existed in their own, separate silos.
Does your organization provide care coordination to residents? If so, how do you use technology to support care coordination efforts? Let us know in the comments section below.