Physician Practices Hiring Care Coordinators

The appropriate cliché at the appropriate moment can have an impact. For instance, hearing “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing” in a hospital might be enough to spin you right back out the revolving door. You know the horror stories. Wrong limb amputated. Forgotten utensils cozying up to innards for the long haul. Those are the sensational examples, but care coordination — or lack of it — was and remains a vexing problem. This story by Kaiser Health News describes it as health care’s “dirty little secret” but it’s something we’ve been reporting on for a long time.

Another phrase that goes way back: physician buy-in. Well, turns out that physicians may buy into care coordination in a big way. About 20 percent of physician practices now employ care coordinators, according to the 2013 Staff Salary Survey by Physicians Practice magazine, a practice management publication for doctors.

Editorial Director Bob Keaveney says that the time was right to include care coordinators in the publication’s survey. “Health care is changing,” says Keaveney. “We are theoretically doing away with the volume-based system of reimbursing providers and transforming into a value-based system that will pay for outcomes and quality of care. Outpatient medical practices typically have five or fewer physicians, and traditionally have not tried to perform complex, holistic case-management that might track patients on everything from their diet to their mental health status.

“That’s why we didn’t have it in the survey before. But in this era of accountable care, practices are realizing that outcome-based population-management is how they will increasingly be paid, and that will require coordination. So we thought it was time to ask whether practices are hiring care coordinators. Still, I was surprised to see that 20 percent have already done so.”

We’re betting that medical directors are pleasantly surprised as well.