With the emergence of new patient care models like Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) and Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH), other new words are surfacing. Like care coordinator. What’s that? Isn’t the patient supposed to manage their own care? I mean, it’s their care, right? Wrong. Well, kinda. While it seems to be a shared conclusion that patients should take a more proactive role in their health, research is emerging that shows a care coordinator can help patients better navigate the ultra-confusing healthcare industry and therefore receive better quality care. So, you ask yourself, what exactly does this care coordinator do?

Care coordinators are really the primary physicians’ right hand, especially when it comes to patients with chronic illnesses. The responsibility of a care coordinator is not only to help patients manage their care at the primary care practice but to help them reach out and connect with other facilities that need to be involved such as labs, specialists, and hospitals.

A care coordinator shouldn’t simply hand write the phone number of the specialist and hand it to the patient and expect them to book their own appointment. No, a care coordinator helps the patient get in touch with the specialist, makes sure they book the appointment, provide any information the specialist might need such as insurance information and physician notes, and then makes sure information from the specialist is returned to the primary physician. And don’t forget about scheduling a follow up visit!

Daily tasks for a care coordinator can include facilitating referrals, directing patients to community services, following up with patients after emergency room or hospital discharges, communicating lab results, helping communicate care plans to the patient and their families, following up on care plans, encouraging the patient to follow care plans… are you tired yet? A care coordinator follows up with the patient and provides encouragement and resources. Ultimately, it’s up to the patient to take advantage of the care coordinator and better their own care.

A care coordinator can be an invaluable piece to any practice, whether you are officially seeking to become an ACO or PCMH or not. If one of your goals is to provide better patient care, you may want to look into creating a care coordinator position of your own. Because better patient care is their whole goal.