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Care coordination yields improved patient experience


It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the complexities and details of health care. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a helper on hand to assist with medical lingo, ask questions about what provider or specialist you should see, help schedule appointments, or offer insight about balancing medical and financial needs?

Kalispell Regional Healthcare is dedicated to patient-centered care where you get the information you need to make the best decisions you can about your well-being or the care of a loved one. With that in mind, we have created a role in our staffing line-up called a care coordinator or a patient navigator.

What is a care coordinator?

Care coordinators serve a unique role in patient care serving as patient advocates. Their primary purpose is to foster patient empowerment through guidance and education. Final choices are always up to the patient, but a care coordinator is a dedicated staff person that can provide patients with information that enhances their ability to make appropriate health care choices and to receive medical care with a better sense of understanding related to risks, benefits and responsibilities.

Simply put, a care coordinator is a hub of coordination between patients, care teams and community resource providers to help patients navigate the many choices related to their health. Care coordinators at Kalispell Regional Healthcare may include the following roles.

  • Discharge navigators assist with inpatient needs during their admission and help plan for the future after they have left the hospital.
  • Primary care navigators are a component of primary care clinics and work with your health care provider to provide ongoing care and education.
  • Specialty navigators support patients with complex needs in the oncology, orthopedic, and cardiovascular areas of care.

What does a care coordinator do?

Some of the responsibilities of a care coordinator may include:

  • Organizing schedules and managing appointments for patients to ensure they receive services in a timely manner.
  • Facilitating communication between the patient, family members, and health care providers to ensure patient satisfaction and quality of care.
  • Assist patients in understanding their health care record.
  • Informing the patient on financial aspects of care and linking patient to financial resources as needed.
  • Accommodating interpretive language services when needed.
  • Scheduling follow-up visits and ensuring continuation of care and coordination with community resources.
  • Providing education on current medical needs and preventive measures.
  • Coordinating with overall needs that can include travel, housing and out of area suggestions for unique patient situations.

Do I need a care coordinator?

While some patients may not need a care coordinator if they just have a simple sinus infection, those patients with more complex needs and multiple providers may find this option very beneficial. For example, care coordinators are great resources for those dealing with chronic or multi-faceted illnesses that are on-going and require many physicians, frequent appointments and changing medication. Likewise, patients with limited support networks in terms of friends and family may seek the advice of a care coordinator to better balance medical needs and financial resources. Caregivers to a sick family member or close friend may also find more confidence with decision-making with the support of a care coordinator. The goal is to provide education and resources to patients to make more-informed decisions and increase patient satisfaction.

What are the benefits of care coordinators?

Patient advocacy services can help reduce health care inequalities and have shown to increase access to care. Informed decision-making often improves patient outcomes for complex illnesses or chronic disease cases. This service provides education and, in turn, more confidence to patients to more effectively negotiate the complex web of administrative and clinical decisions associated with the health care system.

What care coordinators don’t do

Care coordinators do not diagnose or participate in any medical activity that could be viewed as clinical in nature. This may include interpreting test results or medical symptoms, offering second opinions or making treatment recommendations. Care coordinators serve as guidance counselors of sorts — to help patients better understand medical information received from physicians and other members of their medical care team.

How do I connect with a care coordinator?

The nature of the work for a care coordinator will vary based on the organization and specialty area and these individuals may work with patients of all ages, from infants to senior populations. At Kalispell Regional Healthcare, care coordinator or patient navigator services are provided at no extra cost for cancer care, cardiovascular care, orthopedics, complex patient cases, primary/family care and medical tourism. With the inclusion of care coordinators in a patient’s health care decision, it has proven to lower costs for both the patient and health care system as a result of collaborative care, maximized information-sharing, better decision-making and improved medical planning.

Please contact your primary care provider (PCP) to find out more about the care coordinator/patient navigator program at your local clinic. If you do not have a primary care provider, please contact Kim Slaten at Kalispell Regional Healthcare to get connected with a PCP at (406) 758-8489.