5 Ways Continuity of Care is Impacting Health Care

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Stable, consistent health services greatly increase quality of care and positive treatment outcomes. The concept appears simple. Nevertheless, continuity of care affects more stakeholders than one might imagine. [1] Maintaining stable services, or continuity of care, increases in difficulty as the medical field grows more complex, especially for seniors who require the expertise of several specialists.

Influences on Continuity of Care

Several factors can adversely affect continuity of care. Stable, consistent service is critical for serious health conditions. However, this need typically diminishes in parallel with condition severity. Additionally, physicians who establish good rapport with consumers are more likely to retain patrons, and in effect maintain continuity of service. Conversely, physicians who do not build good rapport might lose patients regularly, disrupting continuity of service due to consumers seeking new care providers. In fact, patient satisfaction has historically influenced continuity of care and vice versa.

Continuity of Care among Senior Consumers

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing report “Continuity of Care: The Transitional Care Model” reveals that poor continuity of care, along with other negative outcomes related to service delivery, present an added risk for senior consumers transferring from private residences to long-term care facilities. [2] The quality of senior health services holds great magnitude, as 37 percent of twenty million Medicare participants suffer from multiple chronic health conditions.

The CMS also reports that 13 to 20 percent of senior patients have returned for treatment within thirty days of their last visit for the same symptoms. These unnecessary hospitalizations cost the agency an average of $2,097 annually for senior consumers with one condition and $31,543 for those with six or more chronic conditions.

How Patients Influence Continuity of Care

According to the PubMed Report “Why do patients continue to see the same physician?” most consumers typically try to patronize the same care providers. [3] However, consumers sometimes prefer that different care providers treat specific conditions. For example, a female consumer might want treatment by a gynecologic specialist for issues related to women’s health. Other consumers might choose to visit doctor who has a reputation for a pleasant bedside manner or maintaining confidentiality.

Healthcare Professionals and Continuity of Care

It is growing increasingly difficult for some practitioners to maintain full-time office hours as the trend of pursuing multiple professional interests escalates among medical professionals. However, care providers who maintain regular, full-time office hours have historically provided better continuity of care than physicians who maintain part-time office hours.

In the modern health care setting, nurses play a pivotal role in serving as a liaison between the many disciplines required to deliver services to consumers. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), who follow the Transitional Care Model (TCM), are another example of how medical professionals promote continuity of service. [5] Under the TCM framework, APRNs might officially visit with consumers twice a week. However, the nurse practitioners also maintain contact with consumers regularly via phone and are available to accept patient phone calls seven days a week.

Continuity of Care among Health Organizations

Technology adopted by medical organizations is helping to facilitate collaboration and, in turn, continuity of care. While initial technology investments can prove expensive, health information technology (HIT) facilitates consumer education, promotes coordinated care, and streamlines treatment processes.

Health care administrators work to improve coordination of services between internal departments and external networks. Even within the same organization, care providers may unintentionally break continuity of care between medical units. To mitigate such occurrences, health care administrators promote an environment where team members possess a shared understanding of organizational objectives and therefore work toward the same goals.

Continuity of Care Improves Treatments across Disciplines

Continuity of care produces varying positive outcomes among different health disciplines. For instance, among preventative medicine and general health practitioners, continuity of care results in improved appointment follow-through, hypertension outcomes, identification of bacterial meningitis, and prescription compliance.

One prime example of positive outcomes within health varying disciplines can be noted with maternity midwife practitioners. Fewer consumers are developing high blood pressure during pregnancy, a serious condition called preeclampsia, and less maternity patients feel the need to request painkillers during labor. Consumers experience increased trust, rapport, and confidence with behavioral health specialists, and among asthma specialists, patients feel enhanced emotional and mental health.

Studies such as those conducted by the CMS have proven that continuity of care leads to enhanced quality of care and improves outcomes across many disciplines. [1] To continue producing positive patient outcomes, tomorrow’s health care professionals must make a concerted effort in delivering continuity of care to promote community well-being.

Learn More

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7 TED Talks for Health Care Leaders
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[1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
[2] The Online Journals 0f Issues in Nursing