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Care coordination: Healthier outcomes for consumers

BY RON POLLACK Modified: November 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm •  Published: November 15, 2012

Have you ever gone to the doctor and had to repeat a test because they didn’t have the results on hand?

Do you ever feel that your doctors don’t talk to each other? Or that no one doctor knows all of the medications you’re taking and why?

These kinds of things happen frequently. And they not only lead to higher costs: They can also be dangerous.

Our health care system is complicated, and it can be overwhelming to navigate for anyone. When doctors prescribe lots of different medications or tests, it can be difficult to keep track of it all, especially since doctors often don’t talk to each other or work together.

Poor communication and failure to coordinate care result in medication errors, unnecessary or repetitive diagnostic tests, and preventable emergency room visits or hospitalizations more often than we realize.

These errors and unnecessary tests don’t just hurt us and our loved ones. They also contrib-ute to unnecessary health spending. Some researchers have estimated that inadequate care coordination resulted in $25-40 billion in wasteful spending in 2011 through complica-tions that could have been avoided and hospital readmissions that should not have happened.

Thankfully, this is starting to change. The Affordable Care Act (the health care law) does a lot to promote changes that strengthen care coordination.

So, what is care coordination? Essentially, care coordination means that a health care team works together to ensure that your family’s health care needs are met and that the right care is being delivered in the right place, at the right time, and by the right person.

It means that your doctors work with you and your family to identify your needs, priorities, and goals for different treatment plans. It means that your health care providers will help you figure out what’s preventing you from following a course of treatment — maybe you can’t afford your prescriptions — and then will work with you to find a way around those barriers.

It means that all of your doctors will know if you are admitted to the hospital or if one doctor changes one of your medications. It means if one doctor orders an x-ray, another doctor can easily get that x-ray instead of ordering that it be done again. It means fewer mistakes and, ultimately, better health.

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