Health Services Research & Development

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Olmos-Ochoa TT, Bharath P, Ganz DA, Noël PH, Chawla N, Barnard JM, Rose DE, Stockdale SE, Simon A, Finley EP. Staff Perspectives on Primary Care Teams as De Facto "Hubs" for Care Coordination in VA: a Qualitative Study. Journal of general internal medicine. 2019 May 1; 34(Suppl 1):82-89.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Improving care coordination is a key priority for many healthcare systems. However, initiatives to improve care coordination are complex to implement and have produced mixed results. A better understanding of how to craft and support implementation of effective care coordination strategies is needed. OBJECTIVE: To identify and understand the challenges and factors encountered by Patient-Aligned Care Team (PACT) staff in performing care coordination tasks in outpatient clinics in the Veterans Health Administration (VA). DESIGN: Qualitative study using semi-structured formative evaluation interviews. PARTICIPANTS: Fourteen interviews with 18 clinical frontline managers and staff from 12 clinic sites across five VA health systems. INTERVENTIONS: This paper reports on baseline data collected for the Coordination Toolkit and Coaching (CTAC) project. CTAC aims to improve patients' experience of care coordination within VA primary care and between PACT and other outpatient and community settings. APPROACH: We conducted pre-implementation telephone interviews with frontline managers and staff, primarily nurse managers. KEY RESULTS: PACT staff described challenges in aligning care coordination priorities across different levels of the VA system, including staff, patients, and leadership. Additionally, PACT staff noted challenges coordinating care both within and outside the VA, and identified resource barriers impeding their care coordination efforts. To address these challenges, staff made several recommendations for improvement, including (1) contingency staffing to address staff burnout; (2) additional PACT training for new staff; (3) clarification of care coordination roles and responsibilities; and (4) and care coordination initiatives that align both with centrally initiated care coordination programs and frontline needs. CONCLUSION: In the VA and similarly complex healthcare systems, our findings suggest the need for care coordination strategies that are buttressed by a system-level vision for care coordination, backed up by clear roles and responsibilities for information exchange between primary care staff and other settings, and multidimensional accountability metrics that encompass patient-, staff-, and system-level goals.