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Case Management


There has been considerable discussion about what is an appropriate name for case management. In some programs the case management function is called "care management," "care coordination," or "care planning." There is an ongoing concern that the term "case management," conveys an undesired sense of bureaucracy. Clients and caregivers have expressed their view that they "are not cases and do not want to be managed." Although widely used, the term "case management" remains unclear and confusing, describing benefit management, management of an acute event or of communitybased interventions, or other types of client management across the continuum of care.

The overall goal of care or case managers is to facilitate collaborative and cost-efficient interactions among providers that effectively integrate medical, psychological, and social services in order to provide timely, appropriate, and beneficial service delivery to the client. Such integration can encompass clients and their families, health care providers, community agencies, legal and financial resources, third-party payers, and employers (Gross and Holt).

At the most general level, case management can be defined as a coordinating function that is designed to link clients with various services based on assessed need. Case management has evolved in recognition of the fact that the fragmented and complex systems of care create formidable obstacles for older, disabled individuals and their families. There is a need for coordination of care because caregivers and chronically ill older persons may require services from several providers. Although operationalized in various ways, case management has a common set of core components that includes outreach, screening, comprehensive assessment, care planning, service arrangement, monitoring, and reassessment (Applebaum and Austin; White).

Outreach activities are designed to identify persons likely to qualify for and need health and social support services as well as case management. Case-finding efforts help ensure that eligible individuals are served. Screening is a preliminary assessment of the client's circumstances and resources to determine presumptive eligibility. Potential clients are screened by means of standardized procedures to determine whether their status and situation meet the program's target population definition. Accurate screening is critical. Effective outreach and screening are necessary for efficient program operation and management.

Comprehensive assessment is a systematic and standardized process for collecting detailed information about a person's physical, mental, and psychological functioning and informal support system that facilitates the identification of the person's strengths and care needs (Schneider and Weiss; Gallo et al.). Typically, comprehensive assessment focuses on physical health, mental functioning, ability to perform activities of daily living, social supports, physical environment, and financial resources. Many programs have adopted rigorous standardized multidimensional instruments.

Information collected during the assessment process is used to develop a plan of care. Care planning requires clinical judgment, creativity, and sensitivity as well as knowledge of community resources. Case managers consider the willingness and availability of informal caregivers to provide care. Balance between formal and informal services is a major consideration in the care planning process. Clients and caregivers participate in the process. The care plan specifies services, providers, and frequency of delivery. Costs of the care plan are also determined. Care planning is a key resource allocation process and is a critical case management function. Service arrangement involves contacting formal and informal providers to arrange services specified in the care plan. Case managers often must negotiate with providers for services when making referrals to other agencies. When they have the authority to purchase services on their clients' behalf, case managers order services directly from providers.

Case managers monitor changes in clients' situations and modify care plans to meet clients' needs. Ongoing monitoring combined with timely modification of care plans helps ensure that program expenditures reflect current client needs and are not based on outdated assessment data. Reassessment involves determining whether there have been changes in the client's situation since the last assessment. Systematic and regularly scheduled reassessment also helps in evaluating the extent to which progress has been made toward accomplishing outcomes specified in the care plan.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Case Management - Definition, History, Integrating Health Care, Case Management In Medicare, Consumer-directed Care