Five tips for better CM, physician collaboration

Remember that the case manager-physician relationship is like a marriage and you have to keep working at it to make it a good one, says Steve Blau, MBA, MSW, LCSW-C, director of case management for Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore.

1. Share your successes with physicians. Give them outcomes data and thank them when they have helped you do your job.

2. Never talk to a physician about money. Talk about quality of care, suggests Doris Imperati, BSN, MHSA, CCM, managing consultant for Navigant Consulting, a consulting firm with headquarters in Chicago.

3. Let the physician know that documentation will record the quality of care so the public report cards will accurately reflect how sick the patient really was and how successful the hospital was in treating those cases, she says.

"I try to explain that the government regulations will impact on the patient. It's not that the physicians aren't giving quality care; but if it isn't documented, it can't be measured," she says.

4. Try to talk to the physician face to face whenever possible. It's easier that way for them to understand your concerns, advises Peter Moran, RN, C, BSN, MS, CCM, emergency department case manager at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"If case managers are unit-based, it's somewhat easy to find the physicians when they are on the floor. If they are service-based, it gets tough but there's no substitute for face-to-face communication," he says.

5. Be concise and specific and make sure the timing is right when you query the physician, Imperati suggests.

"A physician's time is very precious. The time they're spending with me is time they're not spending with their patients and families," she says.

Always tell the physician, "If you don't agree with me, don't document it," Imperati says.