Professor, Division of Health Care Policy and Research
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Published October 2, 2012
Eric Coleman is a leader in geriatric and chronic disease care whose work focuses on a problem in American health care that has been largely ignored: the miscommunications and errors that occur as patients transition from hospitals to post-discharge homes, sub-acute care facilities, or other sites of care. Working closely with patients and families, health care providers, and policymakers, Coleman is addressing system-wide deficiencies that too often result in subsequent poor patient outcomes. Elderly patients are particularly vulnerable during these displacements; an estimated 20 percent of Medicare patients discharged to their homes from hospitals are readmitted within thirty days, and the majority of these costly readmissions are preventable. Through rigorous empirical studies and insights gleaned from extensive interviews with patients and their families, Coleman has quantified the scope of the problem and devised predictive metrics and improvements for coordinated and seamless transfers of care. His Care Transitions Intervention, led by nurses and social workers trained as Care Transitions Coaches, equips patients and caregivers with critical knowledge and skills to enable self-care, including a complete personal health record with associated physician information; a reconciled list of medications; a timeline for follow-up appointments; and a list of red flags, or signs that the patient’s condition is deteriorating. Coleman has documented the success of this model, in terms of both patient satisfaction and reductions in hospital readmissions, through the Care Transitions Measure; as a result, his innovative prescriptions have been adopted nationally and internationally, most notably as essential elements in Medicare’s Community-Based Care Transitions Program, a new national initiative. Bringing these and related interventions to even greater scale here and abroad has the potential to improve substantially the care and health outcomes of millions of older adults suffering from chronic illness, saving many lives and much money.
Eric Coleman received a B.A. (1987) from the University of California at Davis, an M.P.H. (1991) from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.D. (1992) from the University of California at San Francisco. He completed his residency (1993–1995) in primary care internal medicine and fellowship (1995–1998) in geriatric medicine at the University of Washington. In 1998, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Denver, where he is currently professor of medicine and head of the Division of Health Care Policy and Research and director of both the Care Transitions Program and the Practice Change Leaders Program.
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