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Health agencies strive to coordinate care

Local providers don’t always share patient information
The Center of Excellence in Care Coordination led a discussion about patient health care at its biannual meeting this week. The gathering included representatives from Mercy Regional Medical Center, San Juan Basin Health Department, Southwest Workforce Center, Rocky Mountain Health Plans, La Plata County Senior Services and the Southwest Center for Independence among others.

Most patients assume various providers of health care are in constant communication with one another, but a local group is reminding individuals that’s not always the case.

The Center of Excellence in Care Coordination held its biannual meeting Tuesday with more than 20 members of Southwest Colorado health care organizations to discuss a wide range of issues about care coordination.

The CoECC was awarded a grant from The Colorado Health Foundation, and since March 2014, has led the effort to build a health infrastructure for improved patient services across the health care system. The counties involved include Archuleta, Dolores, Hinsdale, La Plata, Montezuma, Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel.

“Care coordination is more than a single health care provider,” CoECC Director Nora Flucke said. “It’s a whole system of care.”

Flucke said the CoECC’s job is to coordinate the coordinators to bring different health care agencies together. At this point, organizations involved are participating on a volunteer basis.

“It’s an ethically driven initiative to do the right thing for the patient,” Flucke said.

A patient’s health care can extend through several service providers, and those agencies may not always be in communication with one another in providing care. That can lead to medication errors, prescriptions not getting filled and overall complications that the “wheel of health care presents,” Flucke said.

On Tuesday, representatives of Mercy Regional Medical Center, San Juan Basin Health Department, Southwest Workforce Center, Rocky Mountain Health Plans, La Plata County Senior Services, the Southwest Center for Independence, among others, met in Durango as part of opening discussions to bring together various facets of health care.

Eve Presler, who did social work for more than 20 years before taking a position at Rocky Mountain Health Plans, said throughout three counties (Archuleta, La Plata and Montezuma), about 10 percent of residents were enrolled in Medicaid in 2009.

Now, with the Affordable Care Act, that number is up 19 percent – about 16,900 residents – which is trending with the state average.

“Our focus is the people both enrolled in the ACA and Medicare,” Presler said. “We stretch really far, and a lot of the work we do is over the telephone until we get a team meeting together.”

The ACA has provisions to encourage care coordination. Flucke said because patients can’t just pay one provider for care, it’s going to take payment reform, and the ACA is providing a pathway for that to happen.

“If a community as a whole does well, everybody gets paid,” she said.

There’s no time line for when the CoECC is slated to have a care-coordination system in place. Rather, Flucke said, it’s an organic process as the organization tries to invite more agencies into the network.

“They used to run parallel to each other, and now they have a chance to connect,” she said. “And the patients were on their own to find those services, which is complicated enough. This brings together all the assistance programs that are out there.”


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