A Quasi-Experiment Assessing the Six-Months Effects of a Nurse Care Coordination Program on Patient Care Experiences and Clinician Teamwork in Community Health Centers

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Recognition that coordination among healthcare providers is associated with better quality of care and lower costs has increased interest in interventions designed to improve care coordination. One intervention is to add care coordination to nurses' role in a formal way. Little is known about effects of this approach, which tends to be pursued by small organizations and those in lower-resource settings. We assessed effects of this approach on care experiences of high-risk patients (those most in need of care coordination) and clinician teamwork during the first 6 months of use.

Methods: We conducted a quasi-experimental study using a clustered, controlled pre-post design. Changes in staff and patient experiences at six community health center practice locations that introduced the added-role approach for high-risk patients were compared to changes in six locations without the program in the same health system. In the pre-period (6 months before intervention training) and post-period (about 6 months after intervention launch, following 3 months of training), we surveyed clinical staff (N = 171) and program-qualifying patients (3007 pre-period; 2101 post-period, including 113 who were enrolled during the program's first 6 months). Difference-in-differences models examined study outcomes: patient reports about care experiences and clinician-reported teamwork. We assessed frequency of patient office visits to validate access and implementation, and contextual factors (training, resources, and compatibility with other work) that might explain results.

Results: Patient care experiences across all high-risk patients did not improve significantly (p > 0.05). They improved somewhat for program enrollees, 5% above baseline reports (p = 0.07). Staff-perceived teamwork did not change significantly (p = 0.12). Office visits increased significantly for enrolled patients (p < 0.001), affirming program implementation (greater accessing of care). Contextual factors were not reported as problematic, except that 41% of nurses reported incompatibility between care coordination and other job demands. Over 75% of nurses reported adequate training and resources.

Conclusions: There were some positive effects of adding care coordination to nurses' role within 6 months of implementation, suggesting value in this improvement strategy. Addressing compatibility between coordination and other job demands is important when implementing this approach to coordination.