What is Patient Navigation?
“Patient Navigators are trained, culturally sensitive health care workers who provide support and guidance throughout the cancer care continuum” (What are patient navigators? 2009). The healthcare system, which includes hospitals, clinics and insurance claims, can be hard to navigate for many patients. This is where patient navigators come in and help direct patients so that their experience in the hospital is made easier. According to the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, the activities conducted by patient navigators include:
• Coordinating appointments with providers to ensure timely delivery of diagnostic and treatment services.
• Maintaining communication with patients, survivors, families, and the health care providers to monitor patient satisfaction with the cancer care experience.
• Ensuring that appropriate medical records are available at scheduled appointments.
• Arranging language translation or interpretation services.
• Facilitating financial support and helping with paperwork.
• Arranging transportation and/or child/elder care.
• Facilitating linkages to follow-up services.
Patient navigation is an excellent program that expanded since its establishment. However, it is a program that is only offered to cancer patients. In this paper, I will discuss the implementation of the patient navigation program at the three major hospitals in Albuquerque, which include University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH), Presbyterian and Lovelace Women’s Hospital and then discuss the future of patient navigation, which may mean expansion of services to patients who are affected with other chronic diseases.
History of Patient Navigation Program
Dr. Harold P Freeman, MD, started patient navigation program when he noticed in his practice that many women were diagnosed with late stage of breast cancer. Dr. Freeman was surgical oncologist ay Harlem Hospital in New York and he studied the barriers that prevent early screening of breast cancer for females. Some of these barriers were: lack of health insurance, confusion about proper testing and treatment, and distrust of the health system (Navigating Difficult Waters, 2009). This is when he came with the concept of patient navigation. He saw that navigators were essential for the holistic treatment of a person as they provide non- medical support to guide them through the health care system.
The first patient navigation program was launched at Harlem Hospital in 1990 to help improve access to cancer screening and address the delays in clinical follow-up and barriers to cancer care that vulnerable groups encounter. The success of the program was seen in the increased 5-year survival rates from 39% to 70% and decreased late stage cancers from 40% to 21% between 1995 and 2000 (Navigating Difficult Waters, 2009). This led to signing of the Patient Navigator and Chronic Disease Act in 2005 by President Bush (Navigating Difficult Waters, 2009). Since then the program has...