What Is Care Coordination?
Care coordination is the sharing and exchanging of information about your health and mental health among your healthcare providers to ensure that you receive the most effective treatment possible while minimizing any unnecessary costs, delays, or misunderstandings in the process. During care coordination, members of your healthcare team work collaboratively towards the same goals that have been identified by you and your respective providers. Providers communicate with each other to exchange ideas and information on your specific clinical needs. This might look like sharing thoughts and updates about medical and mental health diagnoses, treatment plans, treatment interventions, medications, therapeutic approaches and goals, and any other considerations that might be important for your overall health and well-being.
In a nutshell, care coordination ensures the best possible healthcare for you!
The importance of engaging in care coordination is also backed by many healthcare researchers. For example, according to the National Institute of Health, “mental and general health problems and illness are frequently intertwined, and coordination of all these types of health care is essential to improved health outcomes” (2006). According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), care coordination “deliberately organizes consumer care activities and shares information among all of the participants concerned with a consumer’s care to achieve safer and more effective care. This means the patient’s needs and preferences are known ahead of time and communicated at the right time to the right people, and that this information is used to provide safe, appropriate, and effective care to the patient.”
Other benefits of care coordination include:
Improved Patient Satisfaction
This patient-centered approach empowers you to actively participate in your care and make informed decisions. Your preferences, goals, and values are all taken into consideration when developing your treatment plan. Care coordination can help put you front and center of your healthcare and can help you feel seen, heard, and cared for. Additionally, it can help you receive consistent information across providers, reducing confusion, and any mixed messages. Care coordination can be like a GPS guiding you through the process: reducing stress and increasing overall satisfaction. According to research, care coordination is associated with higher and more favorable levels of patient experiences (Mohr, 2019).
Care coordination centers on your health and well-being and your short- and long-term health goals. The current research on care coordination shows, “when done well, it connects the person with the system of care surrounding them and is accomplished in interpersonally skilled, collaborative ways which promote recovery. Care coordination can be a vehicle for collaborative, recovery-focused care” (Hannigan, 2018).
Care coordination can involve an array of providers including primary care physicians, specialists, therapists, psychiatrists, and other healthcare providers. When your doctor and therapist work together, they can develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs. This plan takes into account both physical and mental health conditions, ensuring that you receive holistic care that addresses the root causes of your health issues ideally leads to the improved quality of your life.
Care coordination also supports overall preventative care by bringing together various healthcare providers to ensure that you receive timely screenings, dynamic treatment plans, and lifestyle support to maintain your health and prevent more severe symptoms.
Care coordination improves communication and collaboration among members of your care team. With care coordination, it is less likely that information or action items will get lost in the shuffle. All treatment team members will be more aware of what each other is doing without solely relying on you to relay information back and forth between parties. Your doctor and therapist can discuss your progress, concerns, and any changes in your condition, and this real-time communication ensures that any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan can be made promptly.
Reduced Risk of Errors and Improved Outcomes
Care coordination can reduce the risk of missed diagnoses, medication mix-ups, and oversight of other concerns. These steps minimize the risks associated with healthcare delivery, directly contributing to better patient outcomes. This not only saves you time and money but also reduces the risk of medical errors (Mohr, 2019).
Quicker Response to Crisis
We all hope that we never have to navigate a physical or mental health crisis. In times of crisis or urgent situations, coordinated care ensures a rapid response from doctors, hospitals, nurses, and other care providers. Care coordination can help the hospital know you are coming and can help with overall planning after a crisis passes to ensure you have all the necessary follow-up appointments on the books.
Healthcare can be expensive! And, that expense can often be a deterrent to seeking care in the first place. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “coordination of care across settings permits an integration of services that is centered on the comprehensive needs of the patient and family, leading to decreased healthcare costs, reduction in fragmented care, and improvement in the patient/family experience of care.”
Care coordination can assist with thoughtful, intentional, and individualized healthcare planning, reducing the risk of unnecessary or duplicative screenings, tests, interventions, or medications (Hibbard, Greene, & Overton, 2013). This can ultimately save money for healthcare consumers and contribute to helping make healthcare sustainable for all (Mohr, 2019).
Reducing Health Disparities
Care coordination can level the playing field, ensuring that every person, regardless of background, has equal access to quality healthcare. By facilitating communication and collaboration among providers, care coordination can help identify and address disparities in health care access, treatment, and outcomes. This proactive approach allows healthcare teams to tailor care plans to your specific needs, break down barriers, and foster a more inclusive and equitable healthcare landscape.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “care coordination is the key strategy that has the potential to improve the effectiveness, safety, and efficiency of the American health care system. Well-designed, targeted care coordination that is delivered to the right people can improve outcomes for everyone: patients, providers, and payers.” Care coordination is an essential part of providing quality healthcare services. It is a key factor in ensuring that all members of the healthcare system, including the patient, understand their role and are all working in concert towards shared goals. It can provide peace of mind to you, preventing feelings of being lost in the shuffle, and ensuring as optimal outcomes as possible.
Care coordination offers many benefits from improved health outcomes and an enhanced patient experience to efficient resource management and bridging healthcare disparities. In a healthcare world that’s constantly evolving, care coordination is the orchestration of better care, where you–the patient–are the star of the show. Whether you are seeking better care or are a medical provider aiming to enhance your practice, embrace the power of care coordination. The benefits of having your doctor coordinate care with your therapist are numerous and impactful. It allows for a comprehensive, patient-centered approach to your healthcare, reduces errors, improves communication, and ultimately enhances your overall well-being.
At Wildflower, we recognize and prioritize the value and benefits that care coordination brings to your overall healthcare experience. All of our therapists at Wildflower are trained and supported in understanding and integrating care coordination into your therapeutic journey as indicated. You can expect that during your intake session or throughout your treatment journey we will inquire about your comfortability with care coordination, help you understand the benefits, and if you are willing, complete a Release of Information to authorize the coordination between different providers, such as your primary care provider, registered dietician, psychiatrist, or any other therapist or physician that you see. If you have more questions about how care coordination can benefit you, and what this might look like specifically for your healthcare journey, please discuss this directly with your therapist during your next session!
American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Children With Disabilities and Medical Home Implementation Project Advisory Committee. (2014). Patient‐ and family‐centered care coordination: A framework for integrating care for children and youth across multiple systems. Pediatrics, 133(5), e1451.
Care Coordination | Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Retrieved September 11, 2023, from https://www.ahrq.gov/
Greene, J. & • National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Washington, DC. NASW Press.
Hannigan, B. (2018). Care Coordination as Imagined, Care Coordination as Done: Findings from a Cross-national Mental Health Systems Study. Int J Integr Care., 18(3). https://doi.org/10.5334/ijic.3978
Hibbard, J.H. (2012). Why does patient activation matter? An examination of the relationships between patient activation and health‐related outcomes. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 27(5), 520‐526.
Hibbard, J. H., Greene, J., & Overton, V. (2013). Patients with lower activation associated with higher costs; delivery systems should know their patients’ ‘Scores’. Health Affairs, 32(2), 216‐222.
Improving the Quality of Health Care for Mental and Substance-Use Conditions: Quality Chasm Series. (2006). Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Crossing the Quality Chasm: Adaptation to Mental Health and Addictive Disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19833/
Mohr, D.C., Benzer, J.K., Vimalananda, V.G. et al. Organizational Coordination and Patient Experiences of Specialty Care Integration. J GEN INTERN MED 34 (Suppl 1), 30–36 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-019-04973-0