We keep hearing the words. The politicians are talking about it. The Doctors are talking about it. “Care Coordination.” We all understand it means that some kind of change is happening, but what exactly is it? What does it mean for the patients? How is it supposed to work? Lets break it down a little.
From a definition standpoint Care Coordination is is a manner of health care in which all of a patient’s information is placed in a centralized program or project (not necessarily the software type of program), allowing for separate health facilities and care teams to access said information. This allows for more consistent care and faster care, as the information does not need to be re-entered at separate locations. Additionally it creates an atmosphere of teamwork. The physician, nurse, pharmacist, and specialists work as a unified team instead of separate towers of clinical service.
So how are we going about this? Healthcare facilities are managing coordination via paper procedures and programs that have been created specifically for this issue. One of these programs is well known as an enterprise content manager, SharePoint. This is a software product co-developed by Microsoft and iLink Systems and designed as a means of sharing files and information between not only hospitals or clinics in the same network, but others that are outside the network as well. SharePoint allows for medical facilities to create secure web pages that can be accessed from any site containing internet. These sites allow a Physician, Nurse, or other authorized healthcare individuals to enter a patient’s information, create and manage documents, and publish reports about that patient’s care. This means that each time that patient enters a care facility in link with the SharePoint program his or her provider will be able to quickly access their information and thus provide faster and more efficient care.
Previous to programs such as Microsoft SharePoint, healthcare individuals were forced to put most of a patient’s information on paper, or in files on several different computer systems to transport them between care providers. This meant that a provider then had to hunt down all this information and combine it in order to see the complete picture of a patient’s medical record. Beyond the fact that doing so was incredibly time consuming, this also meant that each individual hospital or clinic carried their own separate records for each patient, meaning that things could more easily be missed. By placing a patient’s information within a shared program our healthcare system is now becoming much less disorganized. The care coordination initiative has forced hospitals to work with one another (not to mention health information exchanges). Of course, this is only to their own advantage as they will save undeniably large amounts of money by using less paper, spending less time recollecting information, and less wasted resources running tests that may have been run in another hospital.
As far as the patients go, coordinating care between healthcare facilities can only be a good thing. For the average patient it means less time filling out paperwork they seem to have filled out a hundred times before, less time waiting around while their providers have to call other facilities for their test results, and better care overall being that their previous care providers and their current ones can now communicate more efficiently through reports in their files.