Q&A: How Aetna Redefines Case Management for Medicare Population

Thursday, January 12th, 2012
This post was written by Jessica Fornarotto

The purpose of case management is care completion, states Dr. Randall Krakauer, Aetna’s Medicare medical director. Prior to his presentation on Demonstrating the Value of the Embedded Case Manager for the Medicare Population, Dr Krakauer discussed in detail the purpose of case management, the act of combining the capabilities of the physician and the health plan to create something new, and the enhanced patient experience that results from the medical home partnership between Aetna and Emory Healthcare.

HIN: What is the purpose of case management?

(Dr. Randall Krakauer): The purpose of case management is to assist members in the management of their own health. Case managers provide advice and assistance to make sure that patients understand what they need to do and that their questions are answered to engage their own risk factors and manage them better. Case managers help members to engage their own chronic conditions and to manage them more properly, and to better navigate the healthcare system to their own benefit.

HIN: What is care management at the provider level?

(Dr. Randall Krakauer): Better care management would involve the provision of additional resources at the provider level. This includes data (which may not be available to a provider) and longitudinal contact. Providers generally assume and accept responsibility for management of their own patients’ illnesses. They don’t always have all the data, however, and they sometimes don’t have the outreach for longitudinal follow-up case ability. For example, they don’t always know what other physicians are doing. They don’t always know what other medications are being prescribed. Patients get lost in follow-up. Patients don’t always follow instructions or fill their own prescriptions. They leave a physician’s office and don’t necessarily understand the instructions as well as they should. The purpose of case management is care completion. When a physician sees a patient in the hospital and writes a set of orders, he has a very high level of confidence that this will all get done. That’s not the case with outpatients seen in the office. The purpose of case management is to improve the ability to manage the cases in that milieu.

HIN: How can the capabilities and skill sets of the health plan be combined with those of the provider to create something greater than the sum of its parts?

(Dr. Randall Krakauer): The health plans generally engage in case management and disease management for a population that they identify through their own means or algorithms. They try to coordinate and collaborate with physicians’ offices to whatever extent is possible, frequently by telephone. Physicians are likewise trying to manage their own patients and this includes incoming calls and occasionally outgoing calls, plus other types of contact. They each have information and data that the other may lack. The physician has knowledge of the case, the family and the milieu that the health plan lacks. The health plan has claims information, its own process and transaction data for the individual case, and also global information on outcomes for the provider’s patients in general. We also have an expertise in longitudinal case management and the ability to provide people who will, with experience, outreach to members in between office visits.

Combining the capabilities of the physician and the health plan can create something greater than the sum of its parts; that is, the physicians can identify cases better that could be in need of case management. Physicians, in collaborating with case managers, can give case managers instructions on types of follow-ups that are necessary. Case managers can provide physicians with information, transactions, etc. For example, “This patient left your office. What has happened that you should know about that requires your attention?” Or, “Your heart failure patient has put on a kilogram and a half of weight in one week.” “This prescription was not filled.” It is this interchange, exchange and collaboration that has the potential for creating something that is better.

HIN: Aetna recently announced a partnership with Emory Healthcare and a patient-centered primary care program that will use embedded case managers. You were quoted as saying that this medical home partnership would improve the patient experience. Can you describe how this will happen?

(Dr. Randall Krakauer): In collaborating with the Emory physicians and their staff, we will be able to keep in contact with our members, and/or their patients, when they leave the office to answer questions, to follow up on health issues, to follow up on prevention issues, to follow up on management issues, to bring issues that arise to the attention of the physicians, etc. Once again, we cannot create the milieu of an inpatient patient experience for someone who has gone home. We can try to improve the completion factor, the ability to complete the care that is ordered and provide feedback and information on the results of this care.

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