A Look At Patient Navigators

GENERIC health doctors CBS/AP

Patient navigators offer assistance to help patients and their families access optimal care and overcome barriers to quality care. Find out more about this system.

What Is A Patient Navigator?
According to the National Cancer Institute, "patient navigation" refers to the assistance offered to healthcare consumers (patients, survivors, families, and caregivers) to help them access and then chart a course through the healthcare system and overcome any barriers to quality care. A patient navigator can be a registered nurse or a social worker who functions as a "guide." Navigators help their patients move through the complexities of the healthcare system - getting them more timely treatment, more information about treatment options and preventive behaviors.


When Does Patient Navigation Begin?
Navigation spans the period from an abnormal finding via a cancer detection procedure, through necessary cancer diagnostic tests, to completion of cancer treatment.


What Are The Benefits?
Studies show that addition to unequal access to health care, racial/ethnic minorities and underserved populations do not always receive timely, appropriate advice and care when confronted with a cancer diagnosis.
If navigators get involved early enough after a person has received a cancer diagnosis, they can help steer patients and their families to appropriate care and treatment that could dramatically improve patients' chances of getting the best care and have an opportunity to live with cancer as a manageable disease. By navigating patients around barriers to quality care, patient navigators actually help ensure that cancer patients are not shortchanged in their options and their care.


What Are Some Barriers Facing Patients In Underserved Communities?
There are financial challenges (especially for the uninsured and underinsured); communication and information problems including language barriers; problems with an inferior healthcare system within their communities; travel and distance challenges that can lead to missed doctor appointments; and emotional barriers where irrational fears lead to cancellation or delay of medical services.


To Learn More About Patient Navigators:
• You can read more about Dr. Harold Freeman and The Ralph Lauren Center For Cancer Care And Prevention.

• For additional resources visit the Center to Reduce Health Care Disparities.

• Click here to read more about managing cancer care through the American Cancer Society.

  • Melissa McNamara

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