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A host of health problems have hit Jim Kissinger of Stone Lake, Wisconsin, hard in the last few years — among them heart disease, diabetes and difficulty with his legs. Living nearly 100 miles from his Eau Claire doctor doesn’t make staying on top of his medical situation any easier.
But Kissinger, 81, says care coordination certainly does.
“When you have more complex things that come up all at once, which has happened to me within the last year and a half, it just gets a little overwhelming,” says Kissinger. “When I heard about care coordination, I thought it sounded like a great concept.”
Care coordination is intended for patients who are managing multiple medical conditions. It offers intensive, individualized services, which helps high-risk patients navigate the health care system and coordinate services among their various providers.
“For Jim, we’re focused on helping him manage his medical conditions as best he can, coming in appropriately and seeing the right person at the right time,” says Jon Andersen, a nurse and Kissinger’s care coordinator. “This helps keep Jim feeling well, enjoying his daily activities and prevents unnecessary Emergency Department visits and hospitalizations.”
When Kissinger first enrolled in the care coordination program, he was seeing providers from two medical systems, which made setting up appointments at the recommended intervals challenging.
“Sometimes, I had to wait three months for an appointment, and trying to schedule that between two systems was almost impossible,” Kissinger says, noting that Andersen was able to make helpful recommendations for new providers and assist with the transition.
“There are things that you just can’t resolve on your own,” Kissinger says. “To have someone on the inside, like Jon, is invaluable. You lay out the problem, and you work together on resolving it. I think that’s the important thing — it’s more of a team concept on trying to get the patient working together with the medical team.”
Kissinger is one of about 30 patients from the area under Andersen’s care. Andersen and the 11 other care coordinators see patients from across the region. Sometimes, the care coordinator and patients meet in person; other times, they consult over the phone.
“Our goal is to simplify the experience for our patients and focus on their individual health goals,” Andersen says. “It’s a team-based approach with doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, a psychotherapist, social worker and pharmacist all collaborating to care for our patients. We are very excited to be actively expanding this team-based approach to other primary care departments in the region.”
Kissinger marvels at how much his joining care coordination has helped with his health conditions, from adjusting his medications to changing his diet to exploring clinical trials he might benefit from — all with Andersen by his side.
“He’s just great. He listens well, and he understands from the patient’s viewpoint,” Kissinger says.
Andersen says he’s been happy to help Kissinger become a more empowered and confident health care consumer.
“It’s about supporting patients and encouraging self-management,” Andersen says. “But, they should know that whenever they have questions, they have a person to call when things arise.”