Shreveport Health System Standardizes Core Competencies of Case Management Teams in Four Hospitals

Top Quote The Willis-Knighton Health System is standardizing care by raising the core competency of its case managers in each facility. End Quote
  • Shreveport-Bossier City, LA (1888PressRelease) January 09, 2013 - Delivering the best care in each of many health care facilities is a significant challenge for all large health systems. Operating many hospitals can make it difficult to ensure that every provider in each facility is delivering the same high standards of care.

    To address this challenge, Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport, La., is contracting with Athena Forum, LLC, to raise the core competencies of its case managers, discharge planners, and social workers who operate in the system's four facilities in Northwest Louisiana.

    Athena Forum, in Rockville, Md., operates, a 4,000-page online course curriculum that awards continuing education units for nurses, social workers, and case managers (ACM and CCM). All coursework is designed to improve the performance of case management teams, and all courses are managed by nationally recognized experts.

    "The Athena Forum course offerings met all of our needs from discharge planning, utilization review, utilization management, and in understanding everything we do," said Nancy Nicholson, RN, CCM, the director of case management for the Willis-Knighton Health System. "In a four-hospital system, it can be a challenge to ensure that all the case managers, social workers, and discharge planners on the case management team are maintaining their core competencies.

    "Knowledge is power in this business, and the Athena Forum courses give us an opportunity not only to elevate our core competencies but also to allow our staff to take these courses at any time," she said. "The courses help us improve our competencies in a wide variety of clinical and hospital-management subjects quickly and easily."

    Athena Forum's courses are available online, allowing case managers to access the material at any time from any location with an internet connection. Many case managers take the courses in their free time at home on weekends or in coffee shops before work, or during breaks in the work day.

    This always-available access allows Nicholson to assign a module to her staff and ask them to complete the assignment by the end of the month. Since no travel is involved, she is confident members of the team can find the time to complete the course and be ready to discuss the material.

    "Case managers often find it's a challenge to stay on the cutting edge of clinical care for each patient, particularly those patients who have rare or unusual conditions," Nicholson added. "When we have a patient with a condition you don't see often, the Athena Forum most likely has module on it. Just by going over that module, the case managers gain a thorough understanding of the condition so that they can discuss the patient's care with the physicians and nurses on the floor.

    In addition to offering courses on clinical care, Athena Forum also has courses on hospital management and the revenue cycle. "Those courses are very important for us because we need to understand these topics to be effective on the job. All of the course modules are useful, particularly the ones on utilization management and discharge planning, because those topics are critical to what we do as case managers, social workers, and discharge planners."

    All hospitals are managing readmissions closely because the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is fining hospitals with high readmission rates. Willis-Knighton's readmission rates fall below the national average, Nicholson said, meaning the health system will not face a financial penalty this year. In October, CMS fined 2,217 hospitals for having too many readmissions, and 307 received the highest fine, a 1% reduction in Medicare payments, the New York Times reported.

    "Managing readmissions is a very important area of focus for the Case Management Department, and once again the Athena Forum courses help us to do meet our goals in this regard," Nicholson explained.

    About Willis-Knighton Health System
    The Willis-Knighton Health System, is a nonprofit health system in Shreveport, La., that aims to continuously improve the health and well-being of the people it serves. Founded in 1924 as the Tri-State Sanitarium, the hospital was sold in 1928 to Drs. James C. Willis and Joseph E. Knighton and was named for them in 1950. From one small hospital, Willis-Knighton has grown to encompass multiple facilities, spanning the entire continuum of care for residents in northwest Louisiana and the Ark-La-Tex. Today the health system includes four hospitals: the Willis-Knighton Medical Center, Willis-Knighton South and the Center for Women's Health, and WK Pierremont Health Center, all in Shreveport. WK Bossier Health Center is in nearby Bossier City.

    About Athena Forum® is a 4,000-page online course curriculum awarding 400 continuing education units for nurses, social workers, and case managers (ACM and CCM). All coursework is designed to improve the performance of case management teams, and all courses are managed by nationally recognized experts.

    Case Managers Report the Following Benefits from Contracting with Athena Forum:
    • Elevated core competencies of case managers
    • Improved patient outcomes and transitions of care
    • Reduced readmission risks
    • Improved claims management
    • Fewer avoidable delays.

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