Our case managers are our patient’s advocates and confidants. Their role is to meet unique patient needs through resources and care coordination. They ensure that patients understand their health, the importance of health treatment and management and that they have the resources to reach their health goals. These unsung heroes make a habit of taking that extra step that may just be what makes the crucial difference in the lives of our patients.
This week is National Case Management Week, and we are proud to celebrate our dedicated case managers. We spent some time with Mary Chiang, one of our care manager specialists, who shared what a day in the life is like for our case managers.
DN: What made you decide to be a case manager?
MC: I was a medical assistant at the Health Center for two years. An opportunity to be a case manager for The Hepatitis B Care Program and The Hepatitis B Perinatal Program came up. The position also focused on patients with diabetes and hypertension, which sounded interesting to me. My favorite part of being a medical assistant was interacting with patients, so it was a good fit.
DN: What is a day in the life like for you?
MC: Follow-up, follow-up! I start off my day looking at our Hepatitis B database to make sure my patients have been coming to their appointments. If they have missed an appointment, I call and check in with them. These are not always easy calls—there is always a reason why they have missed an appointment. They may be working outside of NYC, or just very busy. It is a real challenge to make the patients understand how important it is for them to keep up with doctors’ appointments.
DN: How do you handle patients who miss important doctor’s appointments?
MC: It’s important to be understanding. They may have missed an appointment and they really need to come see their doctor, and they tell you they can come in three months. I’ll say to them, “Okay, let me make an appointment for you right now.” I want them to at least have an appointment so they will be reminded to return. There are also patients who will soon run out of medication, but can’t come back yet. I will emphasize the risks of stopping their medication. If they still say they can’t come, I will talk to their doctor for medication refills. I know it is hard for some patients to come in, but we have to continue to call them and make sure they are getting the care they need.
DN: What does the rest of your day look like?
MC: A big part of the Hepatitis B Perinatal Program is providing face-to-face counseling with pregnant women with hepatitis B. I meet them after they see their doctor. Some of these patients have just learned that they have hepatitis B, and they do not know much about it. So there is a lot to talk about! I communicate that they are not just taking care of themselves, and that they have to protect their baby from this disease as well. I tell them how important it is to take medication when prescribed, and how important it is to have their child vaccinated.
DN: What do you enjoy most about being a case manager?
MC: I really get to know my patients. I learn all about their lives. As case managers, we provide extra support for those who need it most, and they are grateful for that. When I help our patients get free or reduced-cost medications, link them to resources or teach them something new about their health—they really do appreciate it. It’s the little things. Just showing them I care seems to make a difference.
DN: Can you share a time where you felt that your job was important?
MC: I had a hepatitis B patient who came to the Health Center because he lost his insurance. He stopped seeing his doctor and stopped taking his medication because he had lost his insurance. His doctor referred him to me for a counselling session. We discussed all the challenges he was facing trying to get medication—and he was trying. He simply could not afford it. I discussed all the options for him to get the medicine he needed. It took an hour just to discuss all the options, and to make sure he understood them. We—including his doctor—decided on the best option for him, which was to try to apply to a pharmacy program that would provide medication for free. We completed all the paperwork right away and faxed it the same day. The very next day he was approved and was able to start medication again.
DN: That is great! What was that like for you?
MC: He was so happy, and I was happy. I said to myself, “That was exciting—next case!”