Professional care coordinators play a crucial role in the home care ecosystem. But if you fill one of these roles, you’ve probably heard from plenty of frustrated people.
There’s the patient who wants to see a particular nurse. The son who’s trying to get in touch with somebody who can explain the health care services his father is receiving. Care coordinators work toward not only resolving these frustrations, but creating patient-centred solutions that exceed the expectations of all involved.
While a lot of care coordination revolves around planning medical services, the scope of the work is actually much larger. That said, many people—especially those who have never received care at home—don’t know the value that care coordinators and case managers provide.
Coordination professionals provide a central point of access to health care services for those who need it most. Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of home care services (or knows someone who has) is aware of how important this function is.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the lesser-known ways that care coordinators makes life better for patients.
Family Caregiver Support
Family members are the single biggest source of support for many patients living at home. Spouses, siblings, adult children—loved ones are often relied on most heavily.
But who supports the family that plays such an important roles in a patient’s journey? Who’s there to answer their questions, recognize their stress, and help them find relief when they need it?
If you’re a care coordinator, you have extensive knowledge of the conditions of each of your clients. You understand their care roadmaps. You know about the relevant services available to them, and are aware of exactly how these services can meet their needs. Importantly, you can explain it all in a way that’s easy for family members to understand. This type of communication can provide immense comfort during a confusing time.
When it comes to close relatives, caregivers often need the most support. Frequently, they’re viewed as straightforward substitutes for at-home services. While it’s true that care coordinators are aware of budgets and program criteria, you also look beyond hours of care. You see caregivers as human beings who are entitled to full lives. And thanks to shifting attitudes in the health care sector, you’re better positioned than ever to help them achieve these lives.
Recently, Manitoba passed legislation recognizing the work of unpaid caregivers. Last year, Ontario greatly increased its budget for respite care. And at the federal level, expanded tax credits and Employment Insurance benefits have been a boon to those providing care for relatives.
Who better to take advantage of these changes than the professionals who know the shifting landscape—and the people who benefit from it—inside and out?
Social & Community Program Integration
Nobody can dispute the value of social workers and counsellors. But care coordinators are often the the first care professionals who get to know a patient’s mental state.
When a person is living in the community, his wellbeing isn’t always visible to visitors. Nurses and personal support workers may come and go, seeing only the cheerful side of a patient who’s actually struggling.
Care coordinators quickly see the day-to-day challenges of those they help. Through goal setting and in-depth conversation, these professionals achieve unique insights into a patient’s attitudes and general wellbeing. They may be the first to know about issues such as depression and social isolation.
If you’re a care coordinator or case manager, you’re probably good at assessing whether a client’s psychological, emotional, and physical needs are being met. Based on your overall knowledge of a client—from medical history to personal preferences—you’re able to find the right services to help her.
This is the unique value of care coordinators. An overall understanding of individual patients combined with a thorough knowledge of relevant policies, programs, delivery models, and care providers.
In addition to offering direct social support—by, for example, actively listening to a patient—you know where to find them additional aid. It could come in the form of in-home counselling sessions. Maybe it’s a meal delivery or adult day program. Whatever a patient’s non-medical needs may be, you have the big-picture perspective to identify them.
Of course, many individual care professionals can provide support that falls within their areas of expertise. But no one type of support can be understood in a vacuum.
Financial Knowledge that Matters
Care coordinators should, of course, be aware of the funds available for particular types of at-home care. This is information that can impact clients both directly and indirectly.
If you work in home care, this statistic won’t come as a shock: 1% of Ontario patients account for half of all health care spending. Care coordinators can help reduce these costs. Through advanced knowledge of care delivery systems and individual patients, they can ensure that services are both high quality and cost efficient.
Understanding financial realities is important at every step of a patient’s care plan. Will funding for a program that benefits the patient in question continue? How long will she qualify for the services she currently receives? Is there an innovative, low-cost solution that could help her? Apps that provide self care reminders or help patients connect with their circles of care are good examples.
Taking all relevant factors into account, a care coordinator can create a realistic care plan that’s likely to lead to a positive outcome.
Then, of course, there are the costs that aren’t covered. It’s hard to tell a home care patient—and his family members—that certain expenses must come out of pocket. But if you’re a care coordinator, you can help make the situation better.
True, some decisions need to be made by patients. But providing general information can empower those receiving care to find agreeable—and affordable—solutions. And once a decision has been made, you can help with next steps—all while keeping individual financial circumstances in mind.
More than Medical Care Coordination
Arranging home medical services in a way that works for both patients and providers is challenging in and of itself. But if you work as a care coordinator, your role encompasses so much more than that.
In Ontario and across Canada, policy makers and health sector leaders are beginning to truly understand the value of coordination. Now is the time to advocate for home care patients and offer recommendations to employers and decision makers.
There’s a growing appreciation of the work that care coordinators and case managers do. In the years to come, this appreciation will serve to strengthen the home care system and the patients it serves.
Feature image from www.patientcaretechniciansalary.net