Care coordination missteps are damaging to providers across the healthcare industry and one huge, overarching mistake is apparent: not enough information is being shared. A study by Health Affairs shows that only 14% of physicians share information with providers outside of their organization.
Unfortunately, care coordination mistakes can be costly...and not just in terms of financial expenses. Some of the most common care coordination mistakes are also major culprits for death and exacerbated patient health problems. U.S. News & World Report indicates, “Medical errors are [the] third leading cause of death in the U.S. 10 percent of U.S. deaths are due to preventable medical mistakes.”
We’ve identified six areas of care coordination where many practices make mistakes -- check out what they are, and see how many apply to you.
Too often, transition of care reports do not accompany a patient referral. Inadequate documentation can lead to health complications that could have otherwise been avoided, as vital symptoms and findings from initial tests are often omitted from patients’ charts. When consult reports are not exchanged throughout the referral process, care may become sub-standard or improper for the patient’s specific needs.
If leadership doesn’t know which doctors are referring patients to specialists, then they cannot have educational conversations with doctors regarding overutilization, referrals to high cost specialists, or the importance of sending transition of care documentation with every referral. To fully understand and streamline the transition of care process, practice leaders must have measurable data on all of their providers’ referrals.
Lack of Coordination Among Caregivers
In an article from khn.org titled “Healthcare’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: No One May Be Coordinating Care,” author Roni Caryn Rabin highlights the common communication crisis between primary and specialty care.
“Advocates for hospital patients and their families say confusion about who is managing a patient’s care — and lack of coordination among those caregivers — are endemic, contributing to the estimated 44,000 to 98,000 deaths from medical errors each year.”
For many primary care practices, there is no follow-through after they’ve referred a patient to a specialist. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, this process does not happen in 50-60% of referrals that are made, putting patients at risk. When patients are left to schedule their own appointments without any oversight, the appointments all too often are not actually made.
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Extended delays between the time at which patients receive referrals and the actual appointments are common. Delays and frustrations with the scheduling process can cause patients to avoid making an appointment, or they may ultimately cancel an existing appointment if the wait is too long.
Primary care practices that refer patients to high-cost providers are doing a disservice to their own practice and their patients. Exorbitant price tags harm reimbursement for PCPs and may scare patients away from the idea of seeing a specialist, despite their health needs.
Because care coordination is an integral part of the path to delivering better patient care, these pain points affect both patients and practices. Proper management along the continuum of care is the best way to deliver improved patient outcomes and cost and quality initiatives. If you’re having trouble in one or more of these areas, our recommendation is to evaluate different ways to improve your workflow. Feel free to check out our white paper on the same subject, or click here to schedule a consultation on your current referral management process.