Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lack of Care Coordination

The switch from acute to complex chronic diseases and the wide variation in care patterns are closely related. It is the complex chronic diseases that need the most attention and hence are most expensive to treat. But as a country we have long had the tradition of the independent, autonomous practioneer in the community taking care of us. This was fine for acute illnesses. The physician could either treat you him or herself or else would refer you to a particular specialist for needed care. Maybe to the surgeon to remove your appendix or gallbladder. Once the surgery was done, the problem was “cured.” Not so with chronic illnesses. Often the patients need multiple physicians, each with different skills and expertise such as the cancer patient would need a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and medical oncologist. But these three and the primary care physician are not likely to be well coordinated. They may have offices in different parts of town and possibly use different hospitals for some of their work. Communication is weak and the PCP often does not feel able to serve as the coordinator or quarterback. And, since these chronic illnesses often occur in older individuals, there is a good likelihood that other illnesses will develop concurrently. Maybe high blood pressure, heart failure or diabetes with complications. And so off to more specialists who do not communicate well and who do not understand the implications of the other illnesses, the other medications, etc. the result is often extra doctor visits, extra procedures, tests and X-rays and even extra hospitalizations than would have been necessary with well coordinated care. Unfortunately, this is the way medicine is practiced today and it is a real problem. It means that care is not as good as it should be or could be, not as safe as it should or could be, not as customer [patient] friendly as it should be or could be, and it means that it costs far too much.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Hi Stephen, sorry to use the blog for this purpose but I wanted to connect with you re your comments and does not seem to be your current email. Please connect with me at Thanks Gary A.

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