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Cancer Care Groups Partner for Better Patient Navigator Services

The partnership will allow ACS to access educational resources to improve patient navigator services.

patient navigator services

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have formed a strategic national partnership to create comprehensive access to quality patient navigator services.

The National Alliance Partnership Program will allow ACS members and patient navigators to access educational resources from AONN+. These resources, including AONN+’s Oncology Patient Navigator‒Certified Generalist exam certification, will enable ACS patient navigators to improve the lives of the cancer patients they serve.

“AONN+’s collective resources will help empower ACS’ navigators with the education and skillsets necessary to further their professional competencies,” said AONN+ Co-Founder and Program Director Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, ONN-CG. “There’s little question that certification for oncology navigators is an issue about which both AONN+ and ACS are passionate.”

This partnership will help ACS to improve the patient experience for individuals and caregivers dealing with a cancer diagnosis, said ACS Senior Vice President of Patient and Caregiver Support Katherine Sharpe, MTS.

“A cancer diagnosis can be the most overwhelming experience a person may ever face in his or her lifetime,” Sharpe said. “The journey can be challenging to patients and their caregivers to manage. We are thrilled that ACS patient navigators will have access to the wealth of resources through our partnership with AONN+.”

“This partnership will support our navigators in their efforts to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caregivers as they face the psychosocial, emotional, and financial aspects of their cancer experience.”

AONN+ leaders also expressed enthusiasm for the care coordination benefits the partnership will bring.

“We are excited and committed to further develop a synergistic alliance with ACS that is mutually structured to provide interactive opportunities to experience knowledge sharing, increase innovation, and enhance collaborative engagement to pursue superior quality cancer care,” said AONN+ CNO and Senior Director of Strategic Planning and Initiatives Danelle Johnston, RN, MSN, BSN, ONN-CG, OCN, CBCN.

Patient navigators play an important role in patient satisfaction and care coordination, especially when a patient faces a life-threatening or serious illness such as cancer. Care navigators are in charge of coordinating social services, at-home health needs, benefits packages, and other resources a patient might need in times of medical crisis.

Additionally, patient navigators are tasked with helping patients navigate the medical industry, including prior authorization, step therapy, and other medication access barriers in place with healthcare payers.

And because these healthcare professionals do not require the same extensive certifications that clinicians do, patient navigators offer a low-cost solution for patients with complex social and medical needs, according to a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System.

Although many healthcare organizations employ nurses or other clinical staff to coordinate these social and medical needs, non-clinical laypeople can be equally as effective. The UAB researchers employed non-clinical patient navigators in the UAB Cancer Care Network and found that the program yielded a 1:10 return on investment, with average costs per patient declining by over $700 per quarter.

The UAB researchers said employing non-clinical laypeople was integral to the program’s success because the patient navigators could more actively engage with patients’ medical and social needs.

“Unlike physicians and nursing staff, navigators are not limited by the traditional model of clinic-based care. They engage patients during clinical encounters with health care professionals and between appointments through frequent telephone communication,” the researchers concluded.

“This patient-centered, preventive, proactive approach has the potential to lead to increased patient activation and earlier management of symptoms, decreasing the likelihood of unplanned admissions or inefficient care.”

The role of the patient navigator will likely become more important as the healthcare industry embraces patient-centered care that prioritizes the social determinants of health. Healthcare organizations are taking more responsibility for meeting patients’ social needs, a role which patient navigators can fill.

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