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Panel Management Versus Care Management

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While there are many common factors and benefits in the two healthcare approaches, there are also significant differences between panel management and care management. Both are proactive and are focused on improved outcomes and reduced costs for patients and physicians. The details regarding which patients are managed and how they are managed differentiate panel management and care management.

Panel Management

As the name implies, panel management involves the physician’s entire panel of patients. Aligned with the concept of population health management, panel management (as defined by the University of Washington Department of Medicine Lexicon) means that “the care team is concerned with the health of the entire population of its patients, not just those who come into the clinical setting for visits.”

The AMA explains that panel management is a “proactive approach to ensuring that all patients whom a physician or practice is responsible for receive preventive care, not just those who come in for appointments” and recommends the following approach to establishing a panel management program:

  1. Develop a registry. This registry can be maintained on the patients’ electronic health records (EHRs).
  2. Use a health maintenance template. This step can also be accomplished using EHRs, which enables the independent physician to holistically evaluate the patient population. (Check out the details here.)
  3. Adopt clinical practice guidelines. Establishing and following guidelines around preventive and chronic care services as well as target levels for health indicators is critical to effective panel management.
  4. Select and train staff to serve as panel managers. Panel management is an approach to be implemented and maintained by the entire clinical staff, working as a team.
  5. Identify care gaps. The clinical staff can use the panel’s EHRs to quickly identify patients who aren’t meeting goals.
  6. Close care gaps through in-reach and out-reach. In-reach focuses on those patients who are seen in the office on a regular basis. Out-reach is a proactive approach for patients who rarely come to the office or who have fallen out of care.

Care Management

The care management approach focuses on collaboration among multiple healthcare providers, managed by the primary care physician. As defined by the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. (CHCS), the goal of care management is to “achieve an optimal level of wellness and improve coordination of care while providing cost effective, non-duplicative services.” The potential for unnecessary and even contradictory laboratory and diagnostic services as well as medications prescribed by multiple physicians without coordination and oversight is significantly reduced or even eliminated with care management.

Care management also takes into consideration non-medical factors, such as social determinants of health, and engages the patients and their families in their healthcare plan. When patients are engaged in their own treatment, including preventive care measures, the quality of their outcomes increase and costs decrease for both patient and physician.