CTI-FAQ

1)  What are the key attributes of a Transitions Coach®?
 
2)  What is an average caseload for a Transitions Coach®?
 
3)  How long does the intervention take?
 
4)  What is the duration of each of the intervention activities?
 
5)  Do patients really need three follow-up telephone calls?
 
6)  What if the patient is readmitted to the hospital?
 
7)  What did the intervention cost?
 
8)  What are the targeting criteria for this intervention?
 
9)  What are the high impact diagnostic groups?
 
10)  What if the person has cognitive impairment?
 
11)  How does the Transitions Coach® interact with the homecare nurse or case managers?
 
12)  What has been Primary Care Physicians’ response to the intervention?
 
13)  Who pays for the Transitions Coach®?


1) What are the key attributes of a Transitions Coach®?

Rather than specifying the ideal professional training for the Transitions Coach®, it has been our experience that when identifying a candidate it is more important to focus on certain key attributes. The key attributes of a Transitions Coach® include:

  • The ability to shift from doing things for a given patient to encouraging them to do as much as possible for themselves
  • Competence in medication review and reconciliation, and
  • Experience in activating patients to communicate their needs to a variety of health care professionals.

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2) What is an average caseload for a Transitions Coach®?

We have learned that the geographic distribution of patients' personal residences has the greatest influence on a coach's caseload. In fact, we have limited patients' participation to a geographic radius that was feasible for the Transitions Coach® to perform multiple home visits in a given day or half-day. In a metropolitan region, a typical caseload is around 24 patients. At any given time, the Transitions Coach® is establishing a rapport and introducing the tools to approximately 1/3 of these patients, is actively involved in helping approximately 1/3 of these patients get their needs met, and is tapering off or identifying resources such as longitudinal case management for the remaining 1/3 of the patients.

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3) How long does the intervention take?
In our experience, patients’ post-hospital discharge needs extend from 21-28 days. As such, the Transitions Coach® was involved and available to patients and their caregivers for up to 28 days.

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4) What is the duration of each of the intervention activities?
In general, the hospital visit usually takes approximately 45 minutes, which includes time to gather information needed to help complete the PHR and reconcile medications at the home visit, establish rapport and explain the program to the patient and/or caregiver.
The home visit usually takes approximately 60 minutes (not including travel time).
The follow-up phone calls range between 5-15 minutes each.

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5) Do patients really need three follow-up telephone calls?
Some patients already had strong support systems and were able to easily incorporate the program into an existing routine. At the discretion of the Transitions Coach®, some of these patients did not receive all three telephone calls.

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6) What if the patient is readmitted to the hospital?
In most cases, the Transitions Coach® either visited the patient in the hospital or telephoned them after discharge to check on their status and provide a “booster dose” of the program.

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7) What did the intervention cost?
The annual cost for the Care Transitions Intervention® was $74,310. This figure was comprised of annual salary and benefits for the Transitions Coach® ($70,980), annual costs for a cell phone and pager ($650), annual mileage for the Transitions Coach® ($2500), and annual costs for reproduction of the Personal Health Record and other supplies ($180).

The cost of the Care Transitions Intervention® is interpreted in light of the productivity of the Transitions Coach® and the potential reduction in re-hospitalization rates and accompanying cost savings. Depending on the number of eligible discharges per year, the number of coaches and accompanying sizes of their panel, and the anticipated reduction in hospital readmissions based on our published data, a health delivery system could determine whether the intervention has the potential to at least pay for itself.

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8) What are the targeting criteria for this intervention?
In order to participate in this program, patients had to meet the following criteria: 1) age 65 years or older, 2) non-psychiatric-related hospital admission, 3) community-dwelling (i.e., not a long-term care facility), 4) residence within a predefined radius of the hospital (thereby making a home visit feasible), 5) have a working telephone, 6) have at least one of 11 diagnoses documented in their record.
These 11 diagnoses included congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary artery disease, diabetes, stroke, medical and surgical back conditions (predominantly spinal stenosis), hip fracture, peripheral vascular disease, cardiac arrythmias, deep venous thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. The rationale for selecting these conditions was based on either their high likelihood for requiring post-hospital skilled nursing facility or home health care (thus experiencing additional care transitions) or because of the need for intensive anticoagulation management.
In addition, the University of Colorado Care Transitions Research Team has performed risk modeling in a representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries. They have developed a risk algorithm for identifying patients at risk for complicated care transitions using either administrative/claims data or administrative/claims data combined with patient-level information regarding functional status and caregiver participation available at the time of hospital discharge. This project was published as:
Coleman EA, Min S, Chomiak A, Kramer AM. Post-Hospital Care Transitions: Patterns, Complications, and Risk Identification. Health Services Research. 2004;37(5):1423-1440.

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9) What are the high impact diagnostic groups?
Among the 11 diagnoses included in the initial targeting for the Care Transitions Intervention®, there are particular conditions that appear particularly amenable to this type of program. These are conditions that require a great deal of coordination, medication reconciliation, laboratory monitoring, and durable medical equipment. Based on our work, patients with CHF, COPD, and recent stroke appear particularly well suited, as do patients requiring short- or long-term anticoagulation such as atrial fibrillation, deep venous thrombosis, and pulmonary emboli.

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10) What if the person has cognitive impairment?
Realizing that it may not be feasible nor clinically reliable to administer a fully cognitive assessment to a hospitalized older adult, we have followed the following protocol. When a patient is approached and invited to participate, a brief 4-item cognitive screening is administered. Patients are asked their current age, today’s date, the name of the facility in which they are hospitalized, and their telephone number. Patients who answered fewer than three questions correctly could still participate in the study provided they could identify an able and willing proxy.

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11) How does the Transitions Coach® interact with the homecare nurse or case managers?
As long as the Transitions Coach® is not billing Medicare for home visits, there is no concern over duplication of services. The patient and Transitions Coach® often practiced or “role played” the upcoming visit with the home health nurse in order to ensure that the patient was able to articulate his/her health care needs. The same was true for the case manager. However, often the case manager was not aware that the patient had been hospitalized and one of the actions for the Transitions Coach® was to re-unite the patient with his/her case manager or to make a referral if longitudinal case management was indicated.
In many respects, it would be natural for the home care nurse to assume some of the roles of the Transitions Coach®, engaging the patient and family members to promote greater participation in the process. Disease management and case managers could also take on some of the Transitions Coach® functions.

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12) What has been primary care physicians' response to the intervention?
In general, primary care physicians have been supportive of the intervention. They have been particularly appreciative of receiving an already reconciled medication list and also a more timely and complete listing of what lab or test results are outstanding.

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13) Who pays for the coach?
The intervention was specifically designed to be compatible within both Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare fee-for-service payment systems. The financial incentives of capitated payment are well aligned to support an intervention designed to better integrate care across settings and reduce subsequent use of acute services such as hospitalization. The cost of the Transitions Coach® would likely be assumed by the Medicare Advantage program.
In a traditional Medicare fee-for-service payment environment, financial incentives do exist, but are less apparent. There are incentives, for example, for acute care hospitals. Many hospitals across the country are operating at capacity and frequently need to divert patients to other hospitals. Hospitals operating in these environments have a financial incentive to facilitate transfer of complex older patients for whom reimbursement is less favorable to other care settings (such as skilled nursing facilities) to create bed capacity for patients for whom reimbursement is more favorable (e.g., orthopedic surgery and interventional cardiology patients).
An additional financial incentive for effective care transitions concerns re-hospitalization. When patients are re-hospitalized for the same condition shortly after discharge, the hospital may have to cover the costs of the subsequent stay under the initial Diagnosis Related Group (DRG). Increasingly, performance measurement for care coordination/care transitions is receiving national attention from groups such as National Quality Forum and the Institute of Medicine. A program such as the Care Transitions Intervention® may help hospitals improve their performance ratings. Finally, accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) includes items on continuity of care for discharged patients, and the new Tracer Methodology examines care “hand-offs” both within and out of the hospital setting. For one or more of these reasons, a hospital may choose to invest in the services of a Transitions Coach®.

The Care Transitions Intervention® and all of its materials are the property of the Care Transitions Program®. The Care Transitions Program® is solely authorized to provide training on the Care Transitions Intervention®. If another entity offers to train your organization, please contact us.


© Eric A. Coleman, MD, MPH