Coordination of care by primary care practices: strategies, lessons and implications

Ann S O'Malley, Ann Tynan, Genna R Cohen, Nicole Kemper, Matthew M Davis
Research Brief 2009, (12): 1-16
Despite calls from numerous organizations and payers to improve coordination of care, there are few published accounts of how care is coordinated in real-world primary care practices. This study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) documents strategies that a range of physician practices use to coordinate care for their patients. While there was no single recipe for coordination given the variety of patient, physician, practice and market factors, some cross-cutting lessons were identified, such as the value of a commitment to interpersonal continuity of care as a foundation for coordination. Respondents also identified the importance of system support for the standardization of office processes to foster care coordination. While larger practices may have more resources to invest, many of the innovations described could be scaled to smaller practices. Some coordination strategies resulted in improved efficiency over time for practices, but by and large, physician practices currently pursue these efforts at their own expense. In addition to sharing information on effective strategies among practices, the findings also provide policy makers with a snapshot of the current care coordination landscape and implications for initiatives to improve coordination. Efforts to provide technical support to practices to improve coordination, for example, through medical-home initiatives, need to consider the baseline more typical practices may be starting from and tailor their support to practices ranging widely in size, resources and presence of standardized care processes. If aligned with payment incentives, some of these strategies have the potential to increase quality and satisfaction among patients and providers by helping to move the health care delivery system toward better coordinated care.

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