Care coordination is a major focus of healthcare change. Much of what has historically been done in a piecemeal manner can now be taken on by a practice manager or delegated to other office staff.
One possibility is an insurance coordinator who helps understand how insurance networks work and who is included. A referral specialist can provide summaries to specialists when a patient is referred. He or she can ensure that necessary labs or other diagnostics are completed before the visit and a report is sent back to the primary care provider after the specialist has seen the patient.
The one thing that will have the biggest impact on practice administration is technology, Palmer said. Technology can be used by a practice administrator to negotiate contracts with insurers. If a group is working with bundled payments, they can use data to extrapolate what the cost will be to treat a group of patients with renal disease or prostate cancer and negotiate a fee. If a group has a high rate of surgical interventions for certain patients with chronic conditions, data can be used to identify high-risk patients for earlier intervention.
Technology can also be used to improve quality by tracking patient satisfaction with surveys and other patient engagement tools. “The practice administrator can analyze what do we do now with information and help change and adapt the practice operationally to improve care and do it in a cost-effective way,” Palmer said.
Little by little
Palmer recommends starting small instead of overhauling the entire job of the practice manager. It may be a good idea to choose three or four things that can be taken on and start there.
For instance, a practice manager might try improving the way an office communicates with patients. A patient portal can be set up with auto alerts to help patients remember to refill prescriptions, track weight loss, monitor glucose levels or provide educational resources.
Another opportunity is staffing changes. A nurse practitioner could treat urgent, acute patients. To improve coordination and population healthcare, a patient care coordinator, dietitian, social worker, or referral specialist might be a good addition.
A final task could be monitoring patients with chronic disease. Aside from tracking numbers with technology, the office administrator can manage and monitor patients by making sure they always have good access to the clinic; follow ups are performed in a timely manner; and that prescriptions are filled or samples are provided so there is no lapse or delays in treatment.