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“Patient Navigators” Developing Trend

I recently wrote about “Patient Navigators” and how they are working with mesothelioma patients to help guide them through the maze of details and decisions they face as they deal with this devastating disease.  I have represented mesothelioma clients for over three decades and the idea of “Patient Navigators” is a relatively new trend in the area of cancer treatment.  I was especially interested to read an article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal about how Patient Navigators, and in particular “Nurse Navigators,” are helping all cancer patients.

At no additional charge, navigators help patients make informed decisions and assist with setting up multiple doctor appointments and tests. Navigators also provide tips on dealing with chemotherapy, make sure patients stay on track with their treatment plan, and offer emotional support.

Accreditation Guidelines Will Require Patient Navigators

There have been significant advances in cancer treatment in the last three decades that have helped to prolong and save millions of lives. But with those advances have come more complex treatment decisions and follow-up options than ever before.  This is especially true when it comes to the treatment of mesothelioma which can involved extensive testing to correctly diagnose the disease and treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.  Hospitals have not always been able to keep up with these changes and the need to provide close coordination among doctors and patients. According to the WSJ, Patient Navigation is seen as one solution to this problem.

More and more hospitals are now adding patient navigation services, helped by funding from the government and private groups.  By 2015, cancers centers will be required under new guidelines to offer patient navigation services to meet accreditation requirements.  The Commission on Cancer, part of the American College of Surgeons, issued these new standards which will bring these valuable services to more cancer patients.

Navigation Services Improve Care

The WSJ reported that the National Cancer Institute has studied thousands of patients over the past five years to determine the effects and benefits of patient navigation.   These studies have shown that patient navigation leads to an increase in participation in cancer screening, as well as greater adherence to follow-up care.

Patient navigators also offer a level of support to cancer patients who are sometimes reluctant to share all their fears and concerns with family members. For example, nurse navigators have helped women with breast cancer deal with every aspect of their disease from purchasing a wig before they face the hair lose from chemotherapy treatments to dealing with the fears that accompany any diagnosis of cancer.

Mesothelioma Patients Benefit From Patient Navigation Services

Whether a patient has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or some other form of cancer, patient navigators are a significant help to them. There are certification programs for patient navigators that include training in care coordinating and interviewing skills, with sensitivity to cultural issues. These medical professionals have access to the patient’s medical records as well as to their doctors.  They can help with insurance issues, arrange for translation services, or simply ensure that patients have a ride to their doctors’ appointments.

As my clients struggle with all of the medical and emotional issues that come with a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is reassuring to me to know that they have this additional resource to which they can turn.