The Relay Race & Care Coordination: It’s All About the Transitions

Growing up, I played a lot of individual and team sports. Both are valuable, but team sports taught me to collaborate – to focus on complementary skills so that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. A classic example is the relay race. As a team, you are so much faster than one person running all four legs by herself.

Focus is on the baton

The baton in a relay race highlights the importance of good communication and coordination among the runners. The healthcare equivalent is the patient; keep the patient at the center because ultimately, this is about him – not you – crossing the finish line.

Baton handover should be instinctual

Source: Olivier Morin, Getty ImagesWrite here...

Source: Olivier Morin, Getty ImagesWrite here...

A properly trained team’s baton pass will be seamless. That is because of careful planning, training, trust between members, and a clear idea of what is expected of each runner. Thinking about care coordination, program set up is critical for success. Who is the care team? When do transitions occur? Who needs to do what, when, why, and how?

You do not run it all by yourself

If you want to run the whole race by yourself, a relay is not for you. There are other sports you can play. In a relay race, each runner runs one leg of the race only. Similarly, in care coordination, you are expected to work with a patient’s care team on a shared care plan.

Many providers care for a patient across the care continuum. Some companies endorse a traditional call center model where one care coordinator is responsible for calling each of the patient’s providers to document the patient’s status. This is not care coordination; it’s a waste of a valuable care coordinator’s time. Care coordination means developing shared care plans where providers can collaborate across the entire episode, updating the care plan to keep everyone on the same page. Ideally care coordinators manage by exception when the patient is not tracking to the recommended plan. This is also a much more efficient method of scaling a program to cover a large volume of patients.

In this day and age, technology exists to facilitate seamless communication and coordination among team members. I’ll also be the first to say that technology alone does not lead to successful care coordination. Just like intensive coaching for a relay race, we need efficient program set up and ongoing management to ensure that the team executes the plan each day.

You can’t coordinate care without coordination – between you, your patient, and your network. Technology should enable the flawless handoff of the patient from one phase of care to the next, while you’re behind the scenes, reviewing your team’s stats.