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Managing the Continuum

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, October 13, 2011
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Improving the front-end process

Saint Luke’s Health System, an 11-hospital system in Kansas City, MO, also used employees to its advantage to streamline the continuum of care. Leadership created a nurse care coordinator position and identified nurses it believed would be particularly suited for the role.

The care coordinator initiative was launched in 2008 and began in March 2010 at the 84-staffed-bed Saint Luke’s Northland Hospital. The organization is now rolling it out to other hospitals in the system.

“We were looking at nursing shortages around the same time healthcare reform was in the beginning stage when they were considering reimbursement changes,” says Vee Thaker, MSA, FACHE, director for quality, risk management, and care integration. “So we decided that we really had to come up with a new care model and figure out how we were going to do it with our current resources.”

Thaker and her team strategically selected RNs to act as patient care coordinators for the ED and two inpatient floors in the hospital. These nurses were either employees who were looking for a challenging, yet less physically demanding job, or hoping to eventually take on a management role. 

The care coordinators are in charge of ushering patients throughout the care system—including beyond discharge. They admit the patient under the correct status, ensure that the patient’s current medication list is accurate, provide consistent communication with the family, and liaise with specialists and social workers.

“Working on the front end and the admission process more efficiently, including medication safety, helps you on the back end by reducing the burden on the frontline nursing,” Thaker says. “It also reduces your denials for Medicare and gives nursing more time at the patient bedside.”

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