Care Managers and Role Ambiguity: The Challenges of Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Patients with Chronic Conditions
As U.S. healthcare organizations transition to value-based healthcare, they are increasingly focusing on supporting patients who have difficulties managing chronic care, including mental health, through the growing role of care managers (CMs). CMs communicate with patients, provide access to resources, and coach them toward healthy behaviors. CMs also coordinate patient-related issues internally with healthcare practitioners and externally with community organizations and insurance providers. While there have been many interaction design studies regarding the work of clinical and non-clinical healthcare providers and how best to design support systems for them, we know little about the work of CMs. In this study, we examine the role of CMs, particularly focusing on their work to support patient mental health, through interviews with 11 CMs who are part of a large Midwestern U.S. health system. Workflow observations were conducted to supplement the interview data. We describe the role of CMs and identify challenges that they face in supporting patient mental health. A key challenge is a high degree of role ambiguity in this professional role. We discuss sociotechnical implications to better support care delivery processes and technologies for the delivery of mental health services by CMs.