The loop in communication and clinical documentation between healthcare providers has traditionally been open for many organizations. Often when referrals are made, they are left largely to the patient to schedule. Many physicians may not even check whether the patient was seen by the specialist until the patient's next appointment or if contacted for records.
There are a million moving parts to the healthcare landscape today, so it's understandable that follow up with referrals might slip through the cracks without a proper protocol. Unfortunately, the cost of poor care coordination can be exorbitant - for the patient's own health and for the physicians and organizations involved.
Hidden Care Coordination Costs for Providers and PatientsPhysicians and specialists have long held that there needs to be better communication. There is a clear indication that a lack of cohesive information and access to patient records can be an obstacle to proper treatment. Questionnaires as far back as 1994 show that both PCP and specialists saw a need for better protocol in areas of care coordination. There are a number of issues that can arise from a lack of coordination in patient care; some that physicians might not immediately consider.
- Adverse Outcomes. The largest and most serious issue in not coordinating care between various providers is an adverse outcome for the patient. Providing all physicians are following their own best practice protocol, the hope is that these scenarios are guarded against internally. But complete access to patient records and information garnered from other appointments is crucial to developing a better picture of the patient's ongoing health concerns and history.
- Diminished Visits. When physicians don't follow a protocol to ensure their referrals are being followed, patients traditionally only follow up on their own at a rate of 50%. Financially, this means few scheduled appointments which impacts the possible revenue of the practice. For patients, this also negatively impacts their overall health because they forego the preventative care to maintain wellness.
- Malpractice Concerns. Malpractice is an active and costly concern for physicians on multiple levels. The risk of misdiagnosis and possible mistakes in treatment are higher when all of the information from coordinating providers isn't present in a timely fashion.
Technology and Current Trends on Care Coordination Protocol
Fortunately, care coordination is one of the areas of healthcare which has reaped major benefits from technology. Today's software and programs offer organizations easy to use solutions to keep communication between providers, physicians and patients intact. Using an electronic referral network, physicians can log all of their information on the patient into a platform which is shared by the referral physician. This eliminates any of the previous issues in sending incomplete files or missing information in transferring records due to incompatible systems.
This type of technology drastically improves the process for PCPs, specialists, and patients. Records are more cohesive in this way, because either physician can track the entire cycle of the patient's health to better pinpoint issues of concern.