BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- The Navy's medical case managers, including those at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), were recently honored for their work to improve health care coordination for military members and their families.
The first Case In Point Platinum Awards were presented in late April by the publisher of the Case In Point magazines and the Case Management Resource Guide. The awards, divided into 25 categories, recognize the most innovative case management programs in a variety of settings nationwide, such as emergency departments and behavioral health.
Case In Point is the official publication of the Case Management Society of America, an organization that aims to support and advance the practice of case management.
Navy Medicine took first place in the military case management program category.
"We are honored that this recognition was bestowed on all of Navy Medicine," said Capt. Sara Kass, assistant deputy chief for the Wounded, Ill and Injured program for the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "This showcases how successful our case managers are in their work in providing quality support to all of our beneficiaries, with particular attention to our wounded warriors. They truly set the bar for delivering patient- and family-centered care across the fleet."
The Navy competed against a number of other military programs, including the Army's Warrior Care and Transition Program, the Air Force's Medical Service Case Management Program and the Veteran's Administration Connecticut Healthcare System.
"It was stiff competition as these are very well respected programs," said Anne Cobb, who works in Case Management at NNMC. "I'm very proud and I really felt like we've done a great job, and [so has] all of Navy Medicine."
At NNMC, there are 16 case managers in the case management division of the hospital's medical management department, Cobb said. They help implement, coordinate and monitor care; they also act as the liaison between patients, providers and health care systems.
"We're connecting the patients with providers to make sure that the care gets delivered," Cobb said. Case managers also make sure patients' providers receive the necessary information on the patient's comprehensive care plan and are all in coordination with one another, said Chisun Chun, director for Healthcare Business at NNMC.
"Case managers cover the entire continuum of care from the time the service member is injured, whether it's on the battlefield or not, until they return to full duty or medically retire and transition to civilian life," Chun said. "They're handling patients who have multiple and complex needs ... they are the glue and the guardian that helps the patient and the family navigate through the whole system of all the various resources they need to recover, to heal and to rehabilitate."
Case managers also often go with patients to appointments and attend multidisciplinary rounds every week, she said. Though they primarily work with wounded service members, they also work with cancer patients and children who have cochlear implants. They specialize not only in traumatic brain injuries, but also in hematology/oncology and pediatrics.
Case managers provide any additional support that's needed to link all communications and services, Chun said, be it transportation, travel orders, housing or social work services.
"Whatever they need, they make sure all those things are taken care of," Chun said.
Wounded service members often have a lot to cope with depending on the severity of their injuries and impact of the trauma, she said. They are often dealing with multiple surgeries, appointments and rehabilitation; meanwhile, they are struggling to comprehend their rehabilitation and healing from their physical and psychological injuries.
"It's a lot they need to take in," Cobb said.
Case managers help package their rehabilitation plans, which are unique to each patient and constantly changing, Cobb said. They also make sure patients receive the follow-up care they need after they return home, which often means corresponding with out-of-state care providers who might not be familiar with the patient.
"We support them while they're home and while they're transitioning," Cobb said.
Though the job can be challenging, case managers remain focused on being proactive, said Sonja Pyle, a retired Navy nurse who now works as the nurse consultant for Tricare Management Activity's Case Management. They monitor care coordination to make sure each patient's needs are accommodated.
"They do a great job," Pyle said.
She said NNMC's case managers are all certified, and many have been published in medical journals and case management textbooks.
"One of the reasons our program has been so successful is that it has retained most of its case managers throughout the years," Cobb said. "The retention has allowed the same case managers to support the extensive multiple treatment plans that have taken some patients over two years to complete.
"They're very professionally motivated," Cobb said. "With their expertise, they've been able to put together a lot of the clinical pathways. It really goes back to the staff ... it's really about them and the care they provide."
Chun added that many of NNMC's case managers have worked in the field for more than 20 years.
"They work above and beyond their call of duty to make sure the patient and family needs are met, and they enjoy what they're doing," Chun said. "We're very fortunate to have them, we have some of the very best, and I'm thrilled that they're getting this recognition."
For more news from National Naval Medical Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/nnmc/.