Objectives: Care coordination programs are frequently implemented in the redesign of primary care systems, focused on improving patient outcomes and reducing utilization. However, redesign can be disruptive, affect patient experiences, and undermine elements in the patient-centered medical home, such as team-based care.
Study Design: Case-controlled study with difference-in-differences (DID) and cross-sectional analyses.
Methods: The phased implementation of a care coordination program permitted evaluation of a natural experiment to compare measures of patient experience and teamwork in practices with and without care coordinators. Patient experience scores were compared before and after the introduction of care coordinators, using DID analyses. Cross-sectional data were used to compare teamwork, based on the relational coordination survey, and physician-perceived barriers to coordinated care between clinics with and without care coordinators.
Results: We evaluated survey responses from 459 staff and physicians and 13,441 patients in 26 primary care practices. Practices with care coordinators did not have significantly different relational coordination scores compared with practices without care coordinators, and physicians in these practices did not report reduced barriers to coordinated care. After implementation of the program, patients in practices with care coordinators reported a more positive experience with staff over time (DID, 2.6 percentage points; P = .0009).
Conclusions: A flexible program that incorporates care coordinators into the existing care team was minimally disruptive to existing team dynamics, and the embedded care coordinators were associated with a small increase in patient ratings that reflected a more positive experience with staff.
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