Utah's First Care Management Program is Data-Driven, Care-Centric
Apr 24, 2014 1:00 PM
Nurses have been delivering clinical care management for decades, but until last year, there were no educational pathways or entry points to actually become a care manager. A ‘skills acquired ‘on the job’ role, care managers “evolved in the workplace, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly,” says Brenda Luther, PhD, assistant professor.
That all changed two years ago when a consortium of leaders in health care and higher education in Utah met to explore opportunities to improve the health of citizens through initiatives in higher education focused on health care. The group, which included representatives from Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health Care, IASIS Healthcare and HCA/MountainStar Healthcare, determined care management, as a competency for nurses, would benefit Utahns. The concept: develop a structure by which to create, model, assess and direct values-driven health care for populations and individuals.
Leaders in higher education from three nursing programs in Utah collaborated on the development of a program of study and course curriculum in care management, and in fall 2013, the University of Utah College of Nursing, the state’s flagship nursing program, launched Utah’s first care management program.
Comprised of eight experienced care managers who were selected by the consortium to represent their individual systems, the first cohort of students is playing a dichotomous role in helping to shape the program’s post-baccalaureate certificate and master’s of science in nursing tracks—that of educator and student. According to Luther, students review curricula to ensure the content of the program will help provide their employers with future employees; they’ll also be serving as preceptors for future cohorts. “The care management program opens up vast professional opportunities for nurses, and assists the health care industry in reducing their training processes for care managers,” Luther says. The program is designed to prepare individuals to understand care management from many perspectives—individual, family, community, and society. Students engage in didactic and practicum experiences in episodic and long-term care management of clients (allowing them to assess, measure and improve outcomes) and can even design a program of study to meet their specific education goals. Or, they can select from several areas of emphasis including healthy aging throughout the lifespan, geriatric and pediatric care management, disease-specific care management, and research and evaluation.
Luther believes that in the future, care managers will be the link, not only between clients and health care systems, but also data and people. “Health care is at a very unique place in that we have exploding knowledge from data. We can see trends and predict trajectories in ways we couldn’t before data were collected, assessed, and examined,” she says. “Care managers can use data on what really happens with those we are charged to care for to help our industry create unique programs based on accurate assessment.” As health care reform ensues, nurses with skills of assessment and intervention focused on health and illness trajectories are in high demand; Care managers have been identified as key professionals to help promote positive health choices and healthy outcomes—all in an effort to provide the best care in the most appropriate place.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of an individual and family’s life when their care decisions are complex, worrisome, or even burdensome, and to help create a trajectory of illness and wellness that works for a person and their family,” Luther says. “Doing so requires accurate assessment of the environment, best use of resources and dedicated follow up to ensure the plan works for all, and the outcomes are what the person wants.” She believes the cohort the college has gathered is part of a new way of providing health care: one based on linking services, communicating with teams, and promoting personalized care. “We’re taking what nurses already do well and learning how we can do it even better to support the values and needs of clients and families at very crucial times in their lives.”
Katie SchrierKatie Schrier is the former Communications Manager for the College of Nursing.