The FAMCare Blog

Social Workers as Case Managers

Posted by GVT Admin on Mar 8, 2018 10:00:00 AM

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As Health Care Becomes More Complex

Health care delivery models increasingly rely on social workers and social worker case managers because of their specialization in identifying and meeting the needs of patients, post-discharge.  Social workers are also healers...

“The aging of the U.S. population, greater incidence of complex health conditions, and the prevalence of multiple chronic conditions highlight the need for a holistic approach to physical and mental health.” (Harkey, 2017)

“The environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks” (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2016).

“As the "triple aims" of care, health, and cost are addressed across multiple settings and by a variety of disciplines, social workers now play an increasingly important role and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.” (Harkey, 2017).

Enter the Social Worker

Social workers' whole-person perspective and skill set make them valued members of interdisciplinary health care teams. The social worker brings a patient-centered, holistic view—one that extends well beyond the patient's discharge from an acute care or subacute setting. Social workers enable teams to address multiple factors that influence health and wellness, including the social determinants of health. As a key member of the team, the social worker is often the one relied on most to address how to meet the person's needs back in the community.

Social Worker as Case Manager

Case management is defined as " a professional and collaborative process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors, and evaluates the options and services required to meet an individual's health needs. Case management has been a key function of social work since the founding of the profession " (Commission for Case Manager Certification, 2015). As advocates on behalf of patients, case managers are obliged to coordinate care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and client-centered. Without a social worker, it may be virtually impossible for transdisciplinary health care teams to pursue a truly holistic approach.

Social Worker as Healer

The aging of the U.S. population, greater incidence of complex health conditions, and the prevalence of multiple chronic conditions highlight the need for a holistic approach to physical and mental health. Social workers whose practice is rooted in case management are integral to meeting the needs of individuals for whom care and resources must be identified and deployed beyond discharge. The more complex the needs, the more comprehensive the approach should be for creating an optimal case management plan to address the whole person. This case management process is defined by the following nine iterative steps: 

  • Screening 
  • Assessing 
  • Stratifying risk 
  • Planning 
  • Implementation/care coordination 
  • Following up 
  • Transitional care 
  • Communicating post transition 
  • Evaluating

“In the hospital setting, for example, an important aspect of outcomes is improving transitions of care, such as from acute care to subacute or discharge into the community. Improved transitions are key to reducing readmissions in order to avoid penalties and reduced payments from Medicare and other payers because of excessive readmissions within 30 days of discharge” (Watson, 2016).

To Sum Up

Health care delivery models increasingly rely on social workers and social worker case managers because of their specialization in identifying and meeting the needs of patients, post-discharge. For example, with expertise in health care social workers provide support such as helping explain diagnoses and treatment options, as well as helping patients obtain financial assistance. 

“Pursuing the triple aims of health care (improving the experience of care, achieving better health of individuals and populations, and reducing the per capita cost of care) puts case management in the spotlight with direct responsibility for undertaking quality measurement and evaluation of the systems of care delivery and the impact on patient care outcomes” (Tahan, Watson, Sminkey, 2016).

When looking to build a solid information foundation - you need a proven software system for case management.  When seeking software - look to your future needs, as well as your more immediate needs.  Your future needs will dictate what type of solution you should obtain today.  With the right software - future requirements and changes to your program are easily configured down the road for you vs. the wrong software that is either impossible or too expensive to make new updates.

Topics: Elderly/Aging Long Term Care, case management software

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