This article appears in the February 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
When it comes to clinical quality improvement, CEOs see care coordination as their greatest strategic challenge. In fact, with 10 possible answers, it was the choice of 30% of the CEOs who took the annual HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey. For perspective, improving patient experience, including patient flow, was the top strategic challenge for only 17%, the next most popular choice. How to overcome the care coordination challenge?
According to William Jacobsen, CEO of 37-bed Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital in Rocky Mount, VA, and a vice president in the Carilion Clinic system based in Roanoke, VA, what's needed is "an army of care coordinators."
"Carilion has taken a stance to work toward coordination of care in a system that has the primary care physician as captain of the ship," he says. "But you just can't take your typical primary care physician and ask them to coordinate these people."
Jacobsen sees care coordinators as the glue that binds physicians, nurses, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing centers, and nursing homes, among others, around the needs of single patients. Currently, most care is still episodic, and information gained or treatments given at one location may not be known by others who treat the patient. Patients with multiple diagnoses are unquestionably some of the most expensive, so it stands to reason that someone who can tie the disparate sources of care together can improve quality and reduce waste, the two top goals of health reform.