Patient coordinator - A good career choice in healthcare.


One doesn't need to be a doctor or a nurse to be a resourceful person to work in the hospitals. Good patient coordinators are sought by many corporate hospitals as they are vital to patient (customer) satisfaction which directly brings in positive benefits to the hospital. This article gives information about how to become a patient coordinator.

Introduction

Helping people who are sick, in need of medical assistance is a noble profession that is satisfying provided we have the aptitude for it. Traditionally, doctors and nurses were the key individuals but now given the complexity of healthcare, a person who is neither of the above can still make a difference as a patient coordinator.

Medical Care and its coordination

Hospitals are busy environments wherein multiple teams with various skill sets all work in coordination with one primary aim, help the patient get the best medical care within a reasonable time limit. For a simple viral fever or a minor injury, we may not need to visit various departments go back often to the hospital. But, if one were to seek treatment for cancer, a chronic disease that needs the attention of multiple specialists or a major surgery (like CABG (heart surgery), transplant of kidneys, liver), then it would be difficult for the patient and the families to run around to various unfamiliar places in the hospital, collect reports, take appointments. This would be an unnecessary burden for someone who already has to deal with emotional, professional and financial issues that have arisen related to the illness.

Some patients who travel long distances to new cities and town are literally lost in the hospital system and may struggle to find help in an out of hospitals; some may even get discouraged to visit the hospitals later on. Here, the role of a patient coordinator is vital, a person who forms the link between the patient and the other numerous people from the healthcare sector who play a role in the planning, delivery, and follow-up of treatment.

Desired qualities in a patient coordinator

  1. Understanding the patient: A coordinator needs to have empathy to understand the turmoil that patients face when in the hospital. While seeking medical care, the patient and family are anxious and concerned about the diagnosis, seriousness of the illness, cost implications. Applying leave and time off work is a major concern for the private sector and self-employed patients.


  2. Maturity and confidence : Handling patients, managing difficult relatives and fielding all the complex questions need a certain degree of maturity and confidence so that the families listen and accept. If the body language, tone, and conservation skills are in the extremes (aggressive and submissive), then the interaction is often not fruitful.


  3. Communication skills : One should be able to converse in the common languages of that region, have basic counseling and communication skills to sound helpful to the suffering patients yet avoid discussing intricate medical issues that are beyond their scope. One should be able to have the skills to handle people who are sad, upset with illness, annoyed or even angry with the system and costs.


  4. Hospital knowledge: A coordinator needs to have the overall picture of the hospital, the departments, the appointment scheduling systems. They need to be aware of the turnaround time for consultations, scans, blood tests. Basic details about the health insurance affiliations, billing, and financial aspects, transport etc should be known or kept handy.


  5. Liason skills: The core job of a patient coordinator would be to form the link between the patient and the doctors. Each patient would have on an average 2-4 different specialties, 2-4 appointments with the investigation departments and some administration need also. If you imagine handling a handful of patients a day, it would be difficult unless one is methodical, time conscious and efficient. Nobody wants to waste time in the hospital, waiting for things to happen.


  6. Record keeping: As a coordinator, one needs to have a quick documentation of all the important appointments, deadlines, specialist meetings so that the pathway for a patient from consultation to treatment is completed in the shortest period of time. One would be responsible for handling confidential information, deadlines for collection information and passing it on to patients or doctors. Often, many requests will come from patients or doctors about a specific report or progress status etc, hence one needs to be good in the documentation.


  7. Medical knowledge : There is no requirement for an in-depth knowledge about the illnesses but a working knowledge about the illness is sufficient. The basic names and terminologies associated with a disease process. The regular and special tests done, the steps and modalities of treatment, approximate timeline and cost for these are usually the aspects that are relevant to a coordinator who would be asked at any time by the patient and family.


Qualifications

  • 12th pass (for smaller stand-alone hospital)
  • Graduation and or Nursing degree (Optional).
  • Certificate in Healthcare training (OPD assistant, in-patient care, operation theatre care etc)


In terms of degrees, one need not be a graduate always to seek such jobs. If you have healthcare experience and good skills hospitals would employ even a candidate with 12th qualifications in the smaller hospitals. Having nursing and non-clinical experience would also be optional, if one is a nurse and wants to take a break from the hectic workload of actually caring for the patient or wants to explore other opportunities for career growth, this job can be considered. Similarly, someone who has been manning the hospital help-desk, reception, cash counters and billing can also think about becoming a coordinator with some short-term training. For a better position, pay package and a high-end hospital, it would be desirable to have a graduation degree and hospital care experience.

Remuneration

The salary package is variable depending on the hiring hospital, hospital brand, experience, and geographic location. The remuneration usually is along the lines of a fresher nurse or a hospital customer care staff. The salary range is between 75,000-2.5L/annum (size of the hospital unit and the department in which the job is related to is also in important).

Skills required

  • A pleasing personality
  • Language skills
  • Communication skills
  • Basic computer skills
  • Multi-tasking and good time management


Scope or areas of work

Clinical side
  1. Patient coordinator (in-patient and out-patient)
  2. Transplant coordinator
  3. Surgery Services coordinator
  4. Cancer Services coordinator
  5. O.T coordinator


Non-clinical side
  1. Medical records coordinator
  2. Insurance coordinator


Here, although there is no direct day to day interaction with the patients during their treatment, one would be involved in coordinating the other aspects related to patient care. For instance, customer satisfaction surveys, handling direct contact lines related to a specialty, involved in electronic medical records, financial services, looking after outsources services related to a specific department etc.

How to prepare to become a patient coordinator

One needs to do some background work before approaching the hospitals for this job. If there is no prior experience of working in a hospital, then it would be wise to become a customer care staff in any major hospital. This would give exposure of how the hospital system actually works, what are the departments, when, where and how patients go for their treatment medical and surgical. It also gives an insight of the administrative departments that are related to patient care ( billing, insurance, finance, house-keeping etc).

If one has already hands-on experience, then he/she needs to fine-tune the CV and start applying. One can look for such jobs on the websites of well-known hospital chains (Private, Corporate, and Government institutions), can approach the HR department of major hospitals and submit a CV. You can also check the online job portal sites.

Once you get an interview offer, it would be advisable to visit the hospital first, have a look around, know the departments, speak to the nurses in the OPD block or the blood collection unit to get an insight about how the system works.

Conclusion

If one has the passion to help people and make a career in healthcare, then becoming a patient coordinator is a good choice to consider. It needs basic skills to interact and help patients by becoming the nodal point for what a patient with an illness needs and what, where and how the hospital offers it. This can be done even if one is not a doctor or a nurse and being a coordinator can be a rewarding experience if one has the right attitude.


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