As the geriatric population continues to rise, it becomes increasingly clear that care coordination is essential to optimal health outcomes for elderly patients. Recent statistics indicate that 80 percent of Americans sixty-five or older suffer from at least one chronic health condition, and almost 50 percent have multiple chronic health conditions.
This staggering figure makes it clear that quality care for geriatric patients must include development and implementation of individualized, coordinated care plans. A well-coordinated plan includes advanced evaluation of patient needs via a comprehensive geriatric assessment, treatments for the chronic health issues faced by the patient, and adequate instruction of family members or friends who will be primary caregivers for the patient outside of a hospital setting.
This type of care is a real team effort, with coordination between physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychiatrists and/or psychologists, physical therapists, and social workers. For the plan to be effective, all team members must have access to one care coordinator, who facilitates communication between all professionals involved and the patient and family receiving geriatric care. A coordinated care plan can also smooth a patient's transition from a hospital setting to a rehabilitation facility, a nursing home, or optimally, back home.
As care coordination becomes a more recognizable element of successful geriatric health care models, Medicare guidelines are beginning to reflect this change in attitude. This is an important development because it increases the ability of many geriatric patients to have access to coordinated care.
Why is this an encouraging sign? According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the benefits are many. Peter Hussey, the study's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a non-profit research organization, said:
"Improving the coordination of care for patients with chronic illnesses can be difficult to achieve, but our findings suggest that it can have benefits for both patients and the health care system."
The study included a large group of Medicare patients and revealed that even small improvements in the continuity of care for geriatric patients suffering from chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, emphysema, and diabetes were associated with sizable reductions in the frequency of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for these patients.
That translates into good news for patients and their families, as well as for the already over-burdened health care system. The study estimated that coordination of care for patients with these three illnesses alone could save Medicare as much as $1.5 billion dollars a year, making coordinated care initiatives a win-win situation.
For more information about how care coordination can benefit you, please contact us. We will be glad to help you find the right solution for your coordinated care plan today.