Case Management Is… Series: Part 3

Case management is the lighthouse in the night shining a path to protect patients from running aground in the dark.

Case management is the eye of the hurricane, where an overwhelmed and exhausted patient or family can breathe for a moment, focus, and get support for a plan to confidently re-enter the storm.

Case Management is air traffic control, coordinating the movement of many fast-moving and complex procedures, specialists, and organizations. The case manager guides everyone to coordinate the work, reconcile conflicts, and ensure everyone arrives safely at the end of the journey. 

Case management is like a symphony orchestra conductor standing on a stage before a group of highly skilled professionals, each with a part to play in a complex performance, and guiding them all to work together while interpreting the work so that an audience (patients, families, insurance companies, government regulators, and communities) can absorb, understand and heal in the process.

Case managers spend their days sorting through complex issues that require a broad understanding of disease processes, treatments, and likely outcomes. Use their understanding of resources to support their clients. They must understand medical terminology and be able to communicate competently with specialists and medical professionals as well as translate the information into everyday language to communicate clearly with patients and families. 

Our medical understanding and ability are expanding in wonderful ways every day, as we become ever more sophisticated and skilled at managing the amazingly complex machine that is the human body. However, that means that our treatments and medications are more difficult to understand and explain, and our systems can be mysterious to anyone without significant medical education, experience, and understanding. When people get seriously ill, they need support and guidance, and because many specialists must work together, that guidance requires specialization as well.

Case management is about interpretations, attention to detail, building relationships, and communicating clearly. 

  • We must interpret the medical events, terminology, results, and prognosis to ensure our patients and families understand what they are being told, so they can understand the choices they have to make, and the treatments they must endure. 
  • We must actively work to learn the details and ask the questions that elicit the answers doctors don’t have time to explore or patients are reluctant to share. The little things often matter most. 
  • We must build relationships with patients to get the embarrassing or uncomfortable details that make all the difference between successful discharge and readmission, and that allow us to guide the medical team to coordinate and collaborate robustly when everyone is pressed for time.
  • We must be able to explain the complex in simple terms and guide our patients to reliable information instead of the most popular trend on Dr. Google.

Case managers are the hub of the wheel that is complex medical care. Case management is the difference between mere treatment and a successful journey towards wellness. 


CMSA Headshot3 Eric BergmanGuest post from Eric Bergman RN BA CCM, submitted as part of our “Case Management Is… Contest” and selected as one of two Third Place Winners!

Eric Bergman, RN BA CCM, is an International Nurse Case Manager for AXA Partners, one of the world’s leading travel assistance companies. He is based in AXA’s Chicago office where he has worked as a chronic disease case manager for US expatriates, a travel assistance case manager overseeing the evaluation and coordination of care all over the world for patients struck by sudden illness while abroad, and as a repatriation escort, using his expertise in both nursing and international travel to safely move ill patients home. After receiving a BA in history from Boston University, Eric worked as a flight attendant and union leader for American Airlines for 27 years. In the early 2000s, as the airline industry experienced its worst downturn in several decades, Eric made a midlife career change and became an RN. His initial nursing experience was inpatient hospice and oncology where he worked at a community hospital in suburban Chicago for five years. Eric has served on the Case Management Society of America, Chicago Chapter (CMSA Chicago) Board of Directors since 2014 and currently serves as Past President of CMSA Chicago. He served two terms (June 2018 – June 2020) as Presidents’ Counsel Representative for the national organization which includes a seat on the National CMSA Board of directors. Eric also has significant past experience serving on boards of several non-profit organizations, and as a leader of various local and national organizations including as CEO of a not-for-profit educational foundation, treasurer of several service organizations, and manager of local and national political campaigns. Eric is a frequent speaker in health care forums nationally. He presents about case management, health care, political advocacy, and leadership of volunteer and professional organizations.