Although high growth rates concerning the demand for and use of care coordination tools are predicted for the coming decades, care coordination is still lacking across health care settings. A 2015 study of clinicians published in the May/June 2015 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine measures the use of IT-enabled care coordination to shed light on the situation.
Out of the study's 350 respondents, 78 percent of clinicians considered timely discharge notifications important. However, only 49 percent of respondents used health care technology systems to complete this task. Additionally, while more than 75 percent of clinicians provided clinical summaries to patients — the most common task completed using care coordination systems — fewer than 50 percent consider this practice to be very important.
According to the authors of the study, these inconsistencies are likely due to a lack of alignment between current technology systems and clinicians' priorities. Both technological and financial help or improvements may be necessary to solve this problem.
The idea of care coordination is an emerging solution to keep hospital, ambulatory and home care workers in the loop in regards to a patient's past and present health care. For instance, technological management systems might let workers know if a patient was hospitalized, if he received a prescription from another clinic or if a certain medication has previously caused unwanted effects.
Despite these findings, the need for care coordination tools is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and the increased quality of care it brings is an important aspect of cost control in health care settings. With the shift to value-based care from fee-for-service care, keeping track of patients across the health care continuum helps reduce redundancies and avoid unnecessary financial risk.
Various types of health care technologies are already available and in development for care coordination, varying in sophistication and uses. One sector with potential promise is wearable technology for patients. For example, wearable wristbands can send data to a physician through an Internet connection for easy management of at-risk patients.
New care coordination tools are likely to have secure, unified platforms for 24/7 communication among patients and health care workers. These systems enable workflow while letting teams easily track and implement care plans. As more advanced products are released, the widespread adoption and use of care coordination may increase. Before this happens, technology manufacturers need to create tools for various price ranges that feature extensibility and flexibility to suit the needs of diverse health care settings.
Health insurance companies, integrated care systems and individual hospitals alike need to catch the coming wave of care coordination technology if they wish to stay current and maintain patients' trust. When properly used, these systems can smooth the work process while preventing mistakes that are costly to both the patient and the health care worker.
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