Only half of patients experience benefits of care coordination

Effective care coordination improves outcomes for patients, but a survey released Wednesday found that only half of patients experience the benefits of clinicians and providers who share information about their care. 

The survey, conducted by Neilsen Strategic Health Perspectives and the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP), found that 49 percent of the 30,007 respondents said their doctors were able to share information about their health and were aware of medical history information before an appointment.

Thirty-seven percent of patients diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses--one of the groups that can benefit most from care coordination--reported they had follow-ups or care management, just slightly higher than 36 percent of patients overall. 

During a press conference announcing the findings, Ian Morrison, Ph.D., a healthcare futurist and co-founder of Strategic Health Perspectives, said healthcare systems often suffer from what he calls the “scout badge problem” when dealing with care coordination and other similar programs. The programs exist, but once the “badge” is earned by creating it, most patients may never see the offerings, he said.

The study also found that only a third of patients have access to 24/7 care like weekend or evening hours, access to urgent care in the same system or other off-hours access like telephone lines. Morrison said improving 24/7 access can help diminish overuse of the emergency department.

The survey also found issues with preventive care, especially for physician recommendations to patients on wellness like improving diet and increasing activity. Ninety percent of the 626 physicians surveyed said they often recommend increasing physical activity levels to patients, while only 22 percent of patients said they recalled such a conversation.

The survey findings also point to health IT as an area for improvement. Between half and one-third of patients who have access to online tools like data portals or appointment scheduling do not use such features, the study found, though the number is on the rise. About 60 percent of patients whose doctors use electronic medical records (EMR) say that it allows doctors to access valuable information about their health.

Robert Pearl, M.D., chairman of CAPP and CEO of the Permanente Medical Group, said that physicians must understand how the technology will benefit patients before they embrace digital tools and engage patients. Better advancements will allow for the creation of a single, universal EMR system, which he called “the real Holy Grail of American medicine.”

Another gap for providers regarding technology is how to market it to senior patients, the survey found. One-quarter of patients 65 and older who responded to the survey said they do not have access to online scheduling tools, and are not interested in using them. More than half felt the same about text reminders and video visits with doctors.

- here’s the survey data (.pdf)