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Nursing professor outlines importance of coordination in health care delivery


January 24, 2014

Arizona State University nursing associate professor Gerri Lamb has been researching, teaching and practicing care coordination for years. A joint faculty appointment with ASU’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts has allowed her to share her expertise with students from a variety of academic and professional fields, ensuring that nurses and other professionals know how to coordinate health care and work collaboratively across disciplines to solve the critical health care issues we face today.

“Care coordination makes the system work for people,” Lamb said. “It ensures connection and communication between all professionals and parts of the system.”

Yet, it wasn’t until her mother became ill last year that Lamb experienced, on a personal level, how a lack of coordination can impact patients and their families – often rendering them helpless and lost in a system that intends to help but cannot, and how it impacts nurses and other health care professionals who, like Lamb, are trained to provide care but are hampered by a disconnected, inefficient system. 

“Care coordination is all about the connects,” Lamb said.  “It’s about the flow of information, ensuring that things are happening at the right time – and that the family is informed. I promised myself that I would do something to make a difference for providers on a larger scale, to strengthen the case for care coordination and to prevent families from going through what my mother and my family had to go through.”

That promise was fulfilled last month when Lamb’s new book, "Care Coordination: The Game Changer, How Nursing is Revolutionizing Quality Care," was released. Published by the American Nurses Association and edited by Lamb, "Care Coordination: The Game Changer" presents a comprehensive look at care coordination from the varied perspectives of 23 highly-respected health care thought leaders, each highlighting different care coordination topics essential to improving health and health care delivery.

“Care coordination, as you will read over and over in this book, is the glue that makes the health care system a safe and coherent place,” Lamb says in the book’s introduction. “Without it, people we care about, people we serve as nurses and other health professionals have great difficulty navigating from provider to provider, from setting to setting.”

The American Nurses Association enlisted Lamb to write the book knowing that care coordination is a critical component of the national quality agenda and health care reform. Care coordination is also a best practice for current and future generations of nurses and health professionals who will be serving in new provider roles and embedded in new delivery models as the health care system changes. 

The association also knew that Lamb’s background in the complementary areas of care coordination, case management and interprofessional education and practice would bring an experienced and highly-respected viewpoint to the project. 

When deciding how to approach the book, Lamb opted to create a comprehensive view of care coordination through a variety of different voices rather than just her own. The authors who were selected to write chapters in the book – Lamb included – have shared powerful examples of evidence-based practice as a part of care coordination efforts at their organizations.   

The collection of narratives in "Game Changer" provides nurses, administrators, students, educators and others in the health care arena with the knowledge to improve care coordination and delivery in their own organizations. 

“Gerri has done a powerful job bringing together some of the best minds in the field of care coordination,” said Teri Pipe, dean of the College of Nursing & Health Innovation at Arizona State University. “She has an outstanding record of passionate commitment, scholarship and advocacy for quality care through collaboration. Through her research, teaching, national policy work and leadership at ASU, and professional service with national organizations, she is focused on solutions and continually paying it forward.”    

Lamb has a long history in care coordination, including experience as co-chair of a care coordination committee at the National Quality Forum – a respected nonprofit public service organization that works on a national level to improve the U.S. health care system.

Lamb’s involvement with collaborative care, specifically interprofessionalism – the practice of working and learning alongside professionals from different disciplines to develop solutions and improve health outcomes – began in the 1970’s when she was an advanced practice nurse at the University of Rochester, an institution that integrated faculty practice and education. 

Lamb’s mentor in Rochester was doing research on effective teamwork and collaboration, and exposed her to this new way of thinking by taking her to national and international meetings on interprofessionalism.

“It’s fascinating how people work together and use their skills to improve health care,” she recalled thinking.

At ASU, where she has been for five years, Lamb teaches and mentors students in the college’s doctoral and health innovation programs, where interprofessional education is firmly embedded. She collaborates with her colleagues and students – many from disciplines other than nursing – on local and international projects designed to put her students’ collaboration skills into practice in order to develop effective health and healing environments for underserved communities. 

In November of last year, Lamb was honored by ASU at the 6th Annual Dream-Discover-Deliver awards celebration for her work developing interprofessional primary care curriculum designed to prepare students for a variety of collaborative health care settings.    

The collaborative process – found in care coordination, case management and interprofessional practice – has been a lifelong journey for Lamb, with her most recent personal experience affirming its necessity. It is a path she continues to travel today for the benefit of her students, her colleagues, an effective and compassionate health care system, and the health of the communities she serves. 

“It was the way I was mentored, the way I practiced as an advanced practice nurse and the way I’ve taught and studied,” she said. “Care coordination is the hallmark of a good health care system.”

For more information and to purchase the book, visit NursesBooks.org or call 800-637-0323.

Denise Kronsteiner, denise.kronsteiner@asu.edu
(602) 496-0983