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70% of Senior Patients Need Better Care Coordination

A new survey from CareMore Health shows that providers need to improve care coordination for senior-aged patients managing chronic illness.

By Sara Heath

Care coordination is an integral part of providing quality healthcare to senior patients, many of which are managing a chronic health condition. But according to a recent survey from CareMore Health, only about 30 percent of senior-aged patients are able to take advantage of strong care coordination.

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In partnership with Harris Poll, CareMore surveyed 1,005 patients over the age of 65, finding that care coordination was left wanting following care encounters. Thirty-four percent of patients said their family members coordinate their care on their behalf, while 35 percent reported that nobody coordinates their care at all.

This is a problem, the survey authors said, considering the number of senior patients managing multiple chronic conditions. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they had been diagnosed with at least one chronic illness, and 64 percent said they have seen three or more healthcare professionals in the past year.

Care coordination is key for ensuring patient safety, the survey authors said, because it keeps multiple providers in the loop regarding certain medications and can reduce duplicative tests and treatments. However, although 61 percent of seniors reported that their doctor asks if they understand their specific treatment instructions, only 43 percent said their providers ask about treatments from other providers.

Some respondents said better communication would be helpful in coordinating their care, with 28 percent expressing a need for more frequent and comprehensive follow-up phone calls and 52 percent interested in a chronic disease management program.

In the future, healthcare professionals will need to adopt better care coordination strategies in order to prevent care gaps that can often lead to adverse outcomes, says Sachin H. Jain, MD, MBA, President of CareMore.

“Navigating the healthcare system is inherently challenging and is even more perplexing for seniors, as many suffer from chronic diseases like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, and are at high risk for complications,” Jain said in a press release. “Successful care delivery models of the future will harness the power of teamwork to meet the medical, psychological, social and personal health needs of the patients they serve.”

Survey respondents also reported a need for more services from their healthcare providers, such as community outreach services and better care access.

For example, the survey found that 21 percent of seniors feel isolated from their friends and families, resulting in 36 percent reporting a need for providers to offer opportunities to engage with their peers and others in their communities. Twenty-seven percent said they wanted their providers to connect them with opportunities to engage in healthy activities with others within the community.

Others said they wanted their providers to guide them in a better lifestyle outside of the doctor’s office. Thirty-eight percent said they wanted their providers to offer diet and nutrition services, while the same number said they wanted their providers to help them get more exercise. Twenty-eight percent specifically cited a desire for a provider-sponsored gym membership or group exercise class.

With regard to care access, 11 percent of respondents said they needed help with transportation to the doctor’s office. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they think it’s equally important for practices to offer transportation to appointments as it is to monitor blood pressure.

Together, these factors each contribute to an overarching network of care. By coordinating each of these elements – coordination, communication, community outreach, and access – healthcare organizations can continue to offer better care for their senior patients and those managing chronic illness.

Adopting these services could be game-changers, the survey authors said, because patients are expressing interest in them. Going forward, it will be important for healthcare organizations to consider these care coordination efforts in order to remain successful in the industry.

“Responses to the survey reinforce the importance of engaging patients by providing access to a comprehensive health care team and services to enable access to optimal care and coordination,” the survey authors concluded. “Successful care delivery models of the future will harness the power of teamwork to meet the medical, psychological, social and personal health needs of the patients they serve.”

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