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Nurses, Coordinating Care and the Future of Healthcare

Care coordination is a buzzword in healthcare these days. But as the American Nurses Association (ANA) points out, care coordination has always been a "core professional standard and competency" for nurses. "It is what nurses do. It is what we have always done." 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs place an emphasis on care coordination. For example, the online RN to BSN program at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) includes coursework that explores care coordination and collaborative care models. 

USI's RN to BSN also covers healthcare informatics, an essential component of care coordination. In addition, this program helps RNs develop key care coordination skills, such as communication and collaboration.

What Is Care Coordination? 

For a term that gets so much attention, one might expect to find a commonly accepted definition. But a Google search for "care coordination definition" returned over 60 million results. 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines care coordination as "the deliberate organization of patient care activities between two or more participants (including the patient) involved in a patient's care to facilitate the appropriate delivery of healthcare services." 

Care coordination is crucial to patient-centered care. It helps patients with more than one condition (and provider) get the right care, in the right place, at the right time. 

Why Is Care Coordination the Future of Healthcare? 

More patients today have complex care needs, including chronic disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease. Four in 10 have more than one chronic disease. Many patients have more than one specialist. 

Electronic Health Records (EHR) can facilitate care coordination by keeping all members of an interdisciplinary health team current on their patients. Expertise with health information technology (HIT) can help RNs reduce fragmentation of care and preventable medical errors. 

Preventable medical errors are a leading cause of death. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) — now the National Academy of Medicine — puts it simply: "When patients see multiple providers in different settings, none of whom has access to complete information, it becomes easier for things to go wrong." Nurses, the IOM advises, "are crucial in preventing medication errors." 

In 2011, the IOM issued its landmark report, "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health." The IOM emphasized the role of care coordination in improving the quality of care. Key messages include preparing nurses at higher levels of education to "manage complex conditions and coordinate care."

The ANA reported on results of care coordination studies, which include:

  • Fewer emergency department visits
  • Increased patient confidence in the ability to self-manage their care
  • Increased patient safety
  • Improved clinical outcomes and reduced costs
  • Improved patient satisfaction
  • Improved quality of care
  • Significant increases in survival
  • Fewer readmissions

Care coordination goes hand in hand with achieving the "Triple Aim" of healthcare:

  • Improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction)
  • Improving the health of populations
  • Reducing the per capita cost of healthcare 

RNs provide the majority of care in hospitals and other settings. This puts them in a strong position to drive healthcare transformation through care coordination. Earning a BSN can equip RNs with the knowledge and skills they need to take the lead in this important effort.

Learn more about the University of Southern Indiana's online RN to BSN program


American Nurses Association: Care Coordination and the Essential Role of Nurses 

AHRQ: Care Coordination, Quality Improvement 

CDC: Chronic Diseases in America 

Institute of Medicine: To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System 

Institute of Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health

Institute for Healthcare Improvement: IHI Triple Aim Initiative

ANA: The Value of Nursing Care Coordination: Executive Summary

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