Public awareness about case management needed

New CMSA leader discusses projects

Case managers are one of the best-kept secrets in health care and should work to educate consumers and physicians about the vital role they play in patient care, says Karen Chambers Knight, RN, CCM, CDMS.

Clearly defining the role of case managers and letting the public know what they do is one of Knight’s pet projects as she takes the helm of the Case Management Society of America (CMSA).

Knight is associate director of the Medicaid maternity program for VIVA Health in Birmingham, AL.

"There seems to be a lack of clarity of the case manager role. We see a lot of blending of roles — case management, utilization management, and disease management. Many physicians understand what we do, but there are still many who don’t," Knight says.

For the second year, CMSA invited representatives from across the health care spectrum to participate in an industry council.

"We got their opinion on where they see the industry going. It is our way of keeping in touch with the different areas. Case management covers such a broad spectrum," Knight says.

Standards of practice

One of the key issues in that meeting, at the chapter presidents’ meeting, and the special-interest group meetings was educating the public on what case managers do.

One potential vehicle for educating the public about case management is the organization’s Standards of Practice, first published in 1995, which recently have been revised. The final version of the revised standards should be completed this fall, Knight reports.

"The Standards of Practice truly represent what standards case managers should be following. A lot has changed in the health care industry in seven years. The way it’s practiced, the way it’s administered, and the settings have changed. We felt it was time to take a good look at them and bring them up to date," she says.

The organization has hired public relations consultants Lauren Hoffman and Deborah Jensen of Atlanta-based Healthcare Writing, Editing, and Research Services, to educate the public about the role of case managers in health care today. The project is being funded by a grant from a CMSA member.

Outcomes on the agenda

Outcomes in case management and providing more education for members are Knight’s other pet projects in the coming year.

"My philosophy was to pick three key areas and focus on them. If we accomplish them before the year’s up, we can find more things to do," Knight says.

Establishing outcomes to measure the effectiveness of case managers has been a big issue for several years, Knight says.

"One reason people don’t understand case management is that our jobs are so complex and what we do varies from case to case. It’s been difficult for people who haven’t been involved to understand the impact that case management can have," she adds.

CMSA’s Council for Case Management Accountability has been working on development of an expert panel to determine what outcomes measures case managers can use to show value, Knight says. The council will publish additional "state-of-the-science" papers on the topic.

Good outcomes means not just cost-effective care but improved quality of life, she adds.

Knight wants to expand CMSA’s mission to provide educational opportunities in multiple forms to meet the members’ needs. "The needs of our members are so complex. Some can travel and some can’t. We want to provide education opportunities for all of them," she says.

Despite national trends showing a decline in conference attendance, CMSA’s 12th annual conference in Orlando in June had the highest attendance ever.

Members who could not attend the conference, may obtain continuing education units (CEUs) on-line from CMSA’s WebEd.

Some sessions at the annual conference are available on-line, with the option of taking an on-line test and printing a CEU certificate.

"It’s a great way to get CEUs. If you buy the tapes, you can’t see the graphics. With this system, you can see and hear the entire presentation just like you were at the conference," Knight says.

This year, for the first time, CMSA gave attendees at the conference a CD-ROM with conference materials instead of a manual filled with paper. The response was positive, Knight says.

In her speech at the CMSA conference, Knight challenged members to become involved in their organizations over the coming year.

"There is something each of us can do. I challenged each case manager to do whatever they can do to make the profession better. It will take all of us working together to accomplish this," she says.