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Care Coordination

6 Key Traits and Skills of a Successful Care Manager

October 5th, 2021 | 7 min. read



Content Team

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How do you define success for a clinical care manager? What does it look like?

It could depend on the context of their work or the goal they’re assigned. But, one likely indicator is patient satisfaction. Another is the ability to manage and work with a large group of people. 

A care manager plays a very important role in value-based care and wellness programs

They are the point of contact between your organization and those you serve. They interact with your patients the most. And they execute nearly all program services patients expect

Without a qualified person in this role, there’s a real likelihood of mismanagement or blunder. It’s essential to not only find the right individual but model the role and their work on a few key traits. 

But what are those? And why are they a factor?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions.

At ThoroughCare, we’ve assisted more than 600 clinics and physician practices with value-based and preventive care services by providing the tools to manage them effectively. 

We’ve lent our ears to loads of feedback and learned from our clients’ direct experiences. 

So, in this article, we’ll review the responsibilities of a care manager, as well as some of the most common traits and skills inherent to a successful care manager

This will help fortify your care coordination efforts, ensuring your definition of success is met. 

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What Does a Care Manager Do? 

The role of a care manager is multifaceted and complex.

As mentioned above, they are the go-between for your organization and its patient population. The care manager is an essential element of any successful value-based health program. 

These programs include:

There are a variety of responsibilities a care manager can have, including:

  • Coordinating medical treatment, including administering assessments, developing care plans, and monitoring medication compliance
  • Relationship building with patients
  • Serving as advocates for and champions of the patients’ health
  • Connecting patients with social and community support systems for continued care

At the end of the day, a care manager is usually expected to have some or a lot of involvement in most aspects of the wellness programs listed in this section. 

This involvement includes specific duties, as well as expertise in the requirements to fulfill said programs. 

6 Traits and Skills Needed to Succeed as a Care Manager

So, what are they? And why do they matter?

Patricia Russ, ThoroughCare’s Clinical Director, can answer these questions. 

With her extensive experience in the medical field as an adult nurse practitioner, Patricia knows exactly what to expect of a care manager. She’s worked with many throughout her career. 

She can pinpoint what character strengths best serve the role. 

We sat down with Patricia to note her perspective to help us with this article. Below, we detail the core traits and skills inherent to a successful care manager, based on her point of view. 

1. Time Management

This is pretty much true for any job. But, when you consider what a care manager is responsible for, it is especially true in this instance. 

They must coordinate services among many people. Sometimes, up to 250 patients per month. Which is no small task

Think about that. 

Whether their tasks on any given day include reconciling medications, updating patient care plans, or coordinating additional resources, there’s a lot a care manager must tend to. 

The needs of even a small patient population can be overwhelming enough. Managing an average-to-large program will demand sustained organization and attention.

Strong time management skills will help prevent any major hiccups that are possible when so many patients require assistance. 

2. Reliable

The more reliable a care manager is the less risk of interrupted services. 

Their reliability can make or break any wellness program. Patients rely on consistent, focused care coordination to truly benefit. If things run off track, many people may be affected.

So, you’ll want buy-in from a dependable care manager.  

3. Possesses a Broad Clinical Knowledge

“It’s tough to find the right person,” Patricia says. “It’s luck.”

“But someone with a broad medical background can do well in the role.” 

Care managers spend much of their time either on the phone or a video call speaking with patients enrolled in services. They are the go-to point of contact in the provider’s place.

With that, comes questions. Medical questions. 

Patients will present inquiries or comments regarding their health conditions. They expect to be speaking with a qualified, knowledgeable resource who can provide valuable input

A care manager, while not a full-fledged doctor or nurse practitioner, is expected to provide a response, in such situations. Having a broad, working clinical understanding will help. 

As well, resources such as care management software can provide talking points for common conditions, offering a starting point for the conversation. 

All that said, it’s safe to assume that your patients will expect to speak with someone in the know, on some level. Providing that resource sets them and your practice up for success. 

4. Understands The Role (They Are Not The Doctor!)  

Though working clinical knowledge is a key skill for a care manager to have, they are also not the actual medical provider. And they need to remember this

“An example would be giving someone nutritional advice when you’re not professionally qualified to do so,” Patricia says. “You can’t base advice on personal beliefs.” 

The medical provider will have limited interaction with patients enrolled in the aforementioned wellness programs. But, everything the patient does, as well as what the care manager coordinates, is directed by the provider

Ultimately, the care manager works for the provider. They are their liaison. 

You need someone in the role who can simply extend your reach. 

5. Persistent

A care manager has to get their practice’s patients on the phone, every month. Sometimes more than once. And, sometimes those patients won’t answer your calls!

It’s a fact of the matter, Patricia says. But with persistence, you can get through. 

You’ll want a care manager that feels committed to surmounting this common obstacle. Not allow it to dictate outcomes. 

6. Empathetic 

This is probably the most important trait one could possess. 

A care manager works with people. People who are in vulnerable positions. They rely on your practice for the betterment of their health. And, in this case, it’s over the phone.

It goes without saying: A care manager should care

But, really, when you’re looking for the right person to fit the role, you’re looking for a kindhearted person. You’re looking for someone who can make someone else comfortable. 

You want someone who can see themselves as the patient

Empathy provides the motivation to do so, as much as it provides the motivation to fulfill the responsibilities of the job. A care manager will come to work each day because they feel driven to help someone address their health needs. 

While the other traits and skills detailed in this article are certainly important, empathy keeps all this human.   

How Do I Hire and Train a Care Manager?

As you move forward in your search, it’ll be helpful to have a plan in place to hire and train your new resource. ThoroughCare can help with that.

In our article, How To Hire And Train A Care Manager, we cover best practices for this process. 

This includes creating a hiring process and developing a training program. Which we detail how to do. 

ThoroughCare’s Learning Center offers additional content related to value-based care.