Intervention Area: Atlanta Metro Area
ATLANTA – The health care system is complex and often very fragmented. Navigating these increasingly advanced structures requires an expert guide. Patient navigators make sure that patients are getting all the care they need, when they need it most. They assist in setting up appointments, making sure patients have all documentation needed to move forward; they follow patients throughout treatment and assist in creating a survivorship care plan; they provide crucial psychological support through the most distressing phases of cancer treatment. The work of patient navigators is especially vital for underserved and vulnerable populations, who often lack a formal support system and may be overwhelmed by the highly technical nature of modern health care facilities.
The Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence (GCCE) has offered a patient navigator program since 2003, designed exclusively for breast cancer patients and facilitated by lay navigators who are breast cancer survivors themselves. GCCE also has a robust partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS), which provides a dedicated, full-time patient resource navigator and a part-time client navigator to work with patients across all cancer sites. Thanks to support from the Merck foundation, GCCE has since been able to expand their navigator program, developing a protocol to match newly diagnosed patients with a nurse navigator. Patients are connected to a navigator as soon as they receive test results that indicate a suspicious or positive result. The nurse navigation program focuses on areas with the highest number of patients, lung/thoracic and breast/gynecology, however navigation services are available to all cancer patients.