For homebound individuals and their families, navigating the healthcare system can be daunting. With its bureaucracy and unique jargon, caring for someone with complex medical needs can feel like waking up in a strange land where you don’t speak the language; even simple tasks become exhausting. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a native friend to act as a translator, guide, and advocate? For patients of Housecall Providers (HCP), this support is provided in the form of a care coordinator like Hillary Stanford.
Hillary recalls a patient who became trapped on a malfunctioning hospital bed. She received a panicked call from this patient at 5:00 PM on a Friday afternoon, and immediately contacted the company who had provided the bed. When they were unable to help, she managed to arrange for a quick delivery of a new bed. “It left me wondering,” Hillary says, “what would have happened if this patient didn’t have Housecall Providers? She could have had a serious fall.”
If you are a patient of HCP you are probably familiar with Hillary or one of our other care coordinators. They are a crucial point of contact for patients, families, caregivers and clinicians alike. The title “care coordinator” is necessarily broad in order to encompass the full scope of their work. But, what does “coordinating” someone’s healthcare really entail?
For our population, with their complex medical needs and limited mobility, coordinating can include everything from ordering shower chairs to convincing insurance companies to cover the medication a patient needs. Not feeling well? Your care coordinator will collect information about your symptoms, communicate with your primary care provider and have them contact you to schedule an appointment. Need to see a specialist? Not only will your care coordinator help get you a referral, they can arrange medical transportation, if necessary, and then follow up after your visit to obtain records. They also work with a network of home health and medical equipment providers to arrange lab draws, diagnostic tests, and ensure the delivery and maintenance of life sustaining equipment.
Care coordinators are skilled communicators who can translate complicated, technical medical instructions into terms easy for caregivers or patients to understand. Communication is a vital part of securing appropriate, efficient healthcare, and empowers patients and families to make educated decisions about their health and well being.
There are so many practical benefits to having a care coordinator that it is easy to overlook the psychosocial support they offer to patients and families. Arranging care for an ill loved one is sometimes frustrating, stressful and even scary. Having a person on your side who understands the complicated ‘ins and outs’ of the medical arena can relieve a great deal of this stress. In traditional primary care, it can take days, if not weeks, to hear back from a clinician; but care coordinators are able to respond to patient concerns in a much timelier manner.
This person-centered coordination is more than just a convenience – it can be lifesaving.
Care coordinators are also indispensable to our clinicians. They act as first line defenders of the practitioner’s time; putting out fires that do not require clinical attention. It hasn’t always been this way. In the beginning, there was only Dr. Benneth Husted, our founder and medical director, sitting at her dining room table making calls and filling out insurance forms late into the night. Necessity being the mother of invention, about 14 years ago Housecall Providers hired our first care coordinator. The benefit of her position was immediately clear, and the Housecall Providers care coordination team has grown to employ seven individuals, each managing over two-hundred patients.
Hopefully, someday, all people will be able to benefit from the advocacy, expertise and caring of a care coordinator. Until then, HCP will continue to lead the way.