Little Rock, AR - How does a case manager describe what they do to a patient/client? This is a challenge case managers take on every day. Patients/clients usually don't know the intricacies of the healthcare system. They don't understand most of the healthcare terminology. Yet, as recipients of care they have an expectation and desire to understand. We also know that nearly half of all American adults – 90 million people – have difficulty understanding health information. Limited health literacy may lead to billions of dollars in avoidable healthcare costs.###
The Case Management Leadership Coalition accepted this challenge to define case management in a consumer friendly way. After working for over one year, the members of the Case Management Leadership Coalition met January 11, 2005, in San Antonio, Texas, and adopted a consumer friendly definition of case management:
Case managers work with people to get the health care and other community services they need, when they need them, and for the best value.
The initial goal was to promulgate a definition that a patient/client could easily understand. Although the term case manager has been used for well over 20 years, it is still relatively new to the patient/client. The term registered nurse or social worker generally is well understood by the patient/client, but because of the newness of the term, patients/clients don't understand case management.
There are many definitions of case management. Over 150 were reviewed to define in understood terms what a case manager does. Most of the published definitions are written for the healthcare professional in terminology they understand. What was needed was a definition that could be understood by the typical consumer.
Several field tests were conducted for the consumer friendly definition. First, patients/clients were asked to complete the statement, "I know my case manager has done a good job because..." Case managers asked their patients/clients to complete this statement. There were many similarities in the responses: they help me understand; they educate; they provide options; they coordinate; they listen; they help; they support; they negotiate.
After a working definition was developed, it was field tested to see if patients/clients understood what it said and to validate the definition again compared to what case managers did.
The consumer definition of case manager can be used in many ways. Case managers can use the definition when they introduce themselves to a new patient/client and explain what they will do as their case manager. It can be printed on business cards and incorporated into the introductory letter to a new patient/client. The definition can be used in advertising and marketing material to describe case management.
Click here to download a PDF version of the definition translated into eight different languages.