July 20, 2021

How to work with a patient care coordinator

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Patient care coordinators empower and guide patients and caregivers every step of the way.

When you or a loved one is battling a serious illness or undergoing a major procedure, the situation can often feel overwhelming. A patient care coordinator can help. Whether you need assistance with scheduling appointments, contacting providers, getting directions or even finding a nearby hotel, a patient care coordinator is there to offer assistance and streamline the healthcare journey for you.

“I tell patients we become a member of the family,” said Auronda Lewers, associate program manager for neurosciences patient care coordination at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Anything they need, we become their contact person. We’re that one-stop-shop. And even though we’re not clinical, they can call us for everything.”

Lewers and Meritza Wynn, another patient care coordinator at Vanderbilt, share more about how they work with patients and caregivers.

Interacting with a care coordinator

You can interact with your patient care coordinator in a number of ways. One option is to talk to a patient care coordinator directly over the phone or in person. In addition, Vanderbilt’s patient portal offers a secure connection when you prefer to send a message to your care coordinator. Care coordinators can then address your needs directly or reach out to nurses or physicians to schedule appointments, help secure medication refills, answer questions and more.

“We strongly encourage patients to sign up for My Health at Vanderbilt,” Lewers said. “Even if they don’t feel comfortable with technology, get a family member to help.”

Preparing for appointments

Lewers and Wynn recommend that patients and caregivers write down a list of questions before a doctor’s appointment. Then take notes, or have someone take notes for you, during your visit. But if a question arises later, or if something isn’t clear, a care coordinator can always help.

“Anything that they feel they need, or they need answers to,” Wynn said, “we encourage them to reach out to us directly.” Care coordinators can send messages to healthcare providers quickly to meet your needs fast, so you don’t have to be placed on hold or wait.

Streamlining care

A patient care coordinator helps to simplify all aspects of care for patients and caregivers. “When you’re dealing with a disease or sickness,” Lewers said, “you’re already kind of frustrated. So having that one person to kind of guide you through instead of having to contact this person, that person, that department — that’s streamlining.”

When you contact your patient care coordinator, you have access to an individual — the same one throughout your journey — rather than reaching a call center or an automated voice.

“They call us directly,” Wynn said, “and they’ll either get us or they’ll get our voicemail and we’ll call them back directly. They don’t have to go through other channels and avenues for the various things that they need completed within their specific program or their specific department.”

Personalizing care

Patient care coordinators also help keep patients and caregivers informed every step of the way, whether undergoing surgery or other treatments or therapies. “We’re educating them about what’s next,” Lewers said, “what’s going to happen, how you’re going to do this, giving you your directions, giving you everything you need so you feel empowered.”

A proven track record

Lewers said Vanderbilt’s patient care coordinator program is lauded across the nation as well as in the local community. “Patients tell their family and friends,” she added, “and we’re constantly getting referrals. We’re there to hold their hand through this process, and patients feel so good about that.”

To reach one of Vanderbilt’s Neurosciences Patient Care Coordinators, please visit the patient care coordinator directory.

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