Patient Care Access News

Healthcare Pros Expand Patient Navigators for Continuity of Care

The American Academy of Cardiologists is expanding its patient navigator program to more hospitals looking to support continuity for care for patients.

patient navigator

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- The American College of Cardiology will be expanding its resources to build an effective patient navigator program, helping to support continuity of care for myocardial infarction (MI) patients.

The Patient Navigator Program: Focus MI Quality Campaign will allow more hospitals across the country to access the tools necessary to create a sufficient patient navigator program. Patient navigators in the hospital setting are essential for providing patient education and directing patients through the healthcare continuum.

The program will essentially expand the pre-existing Patient Navigator Program materials to more hospitals across the country. Hospitals will have access to the ACTION Registry, which includes best practices, mentorship, and specialized materials for implementing patient navigator programs in cardiology units.

Additionally, hospitals participating in the Patient Navigator Program: Focus MI will have access to evidence-based toolkits, self-assessment booklets, and a learning community of patient experts.

ACC will also tap 15 hospitals from its original patient navigator program to develop best practices for patient care and meeting outcomes measures such as 30- and 90-day readmissions. According to ACC, hospital readmission rates post discharge are becoming increasingly important outcomes measures in the value-based care environment.

Ultimately, ACC’s goal is to help hospitals manage patient health and care once they have been discharged from the hospital. Patient navigators can help direct patients through the rest of the healthcare continuum following the hospital stay.

The relaunched Patient Navigator Program: Focus on MI will build upon the successes of ACC’s original patient navigator program.

"Since the original Patient Navigator Program launched, hospitals and cardiovascular care team members have led the way in developing effective ways to help manage patients' heart health after they leave the hospital," ACC President Mary Norine Walsh, MD, FACC, said in a statement. "The Patient Navigator Program: Focus MI aims to build on what we have learned to help hospitals across the country reduce readmission rates while improving patients' long-term outcomes."

Following the launch of ACC’s 2013 patient navigator program, the 35 participating hospitals reported increases in risk assessments and patient medication safety education. Additionally, participating hospitals reported more targeted patient education efforts and better community resources that help patients reacclimate to their home environments while maintaining health.

Now, ACC and its partner, AstraZeneca, plan to address readmission issues in their plight to support patient-centered and value-based healthcare.

"The progress from the ACC Patient Navigator Program has provided great evidence into the importance of putting programs in place to address transition of care for patients following a heart attack," explained Rod Wooten, Vice President, CVMD, AstraZeneca. "As hospitals continue to seek evidence-based strategies to improve quality of care, our hope is that providing continued support to the Patient Navigator Program: Focus MI will address the important topic of reducing MI readmissions for patients nationally."

Patient navigators bring many benefits to the healthcare encounter. Patient health is rarely confined to the four walls of the hospital. Following a care episode, patients typically require follow-up care with another provider and continued monitoring and preventive care.

Patient navigators put patients in contact with those other providers. Navigators can also connect patients with community services that will assist with other peripheral healthcare factors, such as transportation to follow-up appointments.

Navigators tend to be medical professionals, but recent research has suggested that tapping non-medical professionals can be a cost effective way to deliver this service to patients.

Layperson patient navigators yielded a 1:10 return on investment, with average costs for patients receiving layperson navigation declining by $781.29 per patient per quarter, according to research at one healthcare organization. That created a total cost savings of $19 million annually across the network.

With the healthcare industry taking a more patient-centric and value-based turn, healthcare organizations are searching for strategies to make care more comprehensive. Healthcare navigators help lead the way toward that more comprehensive care, connecting patients with the providers and other resources necessary to promote prolonged health.


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