Eliminating the Blind Side in Care Coordination

football huddle

By Bill Reid, VP of Business Development, SCI Solutions

Did he catch it?

January is football playoff time in America, with the best teams in college and professional football playing to determine this year’s champions.

While you are gathered around the TV, imagine this scenario happening before your eyes:

Team gathers in the huddle after the play. The quarterback asks the other players, “So did the wide receiver catch the ball that last play? I threw it his direction.” The rest of the players shrug, and the center says, “I don’t know. I haven’t heard back from the wide receiver yet. I am expecting to hear by the end of the quarter. If I don’t, I’ll call him.” Quarterback responds, “Well, maybe I should just throw another pass that direction again on this play.” They then break and head to the line.

Ridiculous, right?

Well, this scenario plays out every day in our healthcare system. Primary care providers send a referral to a specialist, either by patient “handoff” on paper, or through an electronic “pass” via fax or interchange. They then wait. It could be weeks before they get back the consult note. They are playing blind. How can they coordinate the care, be the “quarterback” for the patient, if they don’t get the information?

This is not a new problem. As far back as 1980, one study noted that overall rate of primary care providers receiving follow-up information post referral was only 62 percent.1 Another study in 2007 noted primary care providers were missing information in 13.6 percent of visits.2

And this is not just a problem for primary care. Specialty providers often report that they are not getting the information they need to properly care for patients referred to them.

What is needed is a commitment to connect the care network together. We need to help providers know the referrals they made resulted in care being delivered and know to get a follow-up consult note. We need to ensure specialists get the clinical information they need to be ready to see the patient. Patients need the assurance that their doctors are on top of this and that all are in sync.

Connecting the healthcare network together is like adding an offensive coordinator, sitting up in the sky box looking down on the field of play. It also allows a concurrent analysis of the system, just like teams take photos of the play, film their actions to diagnose how to do it better next time and radio it down to the quarterback.

We can do this today. We just need to call the play, snap the ball and begin to move down the field. We’ve got a critical game to win and no time to waste.

“Health on 3, ready, break.”


1Cummins, Richard O., Robert W. Smith and Thomas S. Inui, “Communication Failure in Primary Care: Failure of Consultants to Provide Follow-Up Information,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 243, No. 16 (April 25, 1980).

2Smith, Peter C., et al., “Missing Clinical Information During Primary Care Visits,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 293, No. 5 (Feb. 2, 2005).

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