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October 31, 2012 (Cleveland)

Panel Event Examines Growing Role of Patient Navigators in Northeast Ohio

patient navigatorsOn October 12, 2012, The Center for Health Affairs and The Academy of Medicine of Cleveland and Northern Ohio hosted “Leading the Way: A Panel Discussion on the Value of Patient Navigation” at Southwest General Hospital. Over 100 patient navigators and other healthcare professionals gathered together for breakfast, networking, and insight into the impact patient navigation is having on healthcare in Northeast Ohio.

Attendees heard from experts on the subject including Dr. Harold Freeman, the pioneer of patient navigation and Dee Dee Ricks, a cancer survivor who has dedicated herself to expanding the reach and impact of patient navigation. Panelists included: Bill Ryan, president and CEO, The Center for Health Affairs; Dr. Natalie Joseph, surgical oncologist, MetroHealth Medical Center; Cheryl Slagle, Vice President, Clinical Operations, CareSource; and Mary Curran, senior director, special projects, Cleveland Clinic. Mary Weir-Boylan, vice president, ambulatory operations, MetroHealth Medical Center served as moderator.

Dr. Freeman talked about the importance of the patient navigator for those patients who need assistance managing the day to day tasks of their diagnosis. “The navigator knows where the rocks in the journey are,” said Freeman, “and helps patients move around them.”

Bill Ryan highlighted some patient navigation data from a pilot project in Northeast Ohio, which has demonstrated significant cost savings for hospitals. Jointly financed by The Center and Accenture, the navigation pilot project employed a patient navigator at a Northeast Ohio hospital for patients with head and neck cancer with the aim of reducing cancelled and no-show appointments. The pilot proved successful in accomplishing this goal, with the resulting cost savings covering the cost of the navigator’s salary in just 2.5 months. Considering the current economy and budget cutting, it can be difficult to justify new hires at hospitals, yet, “especially for complicated cases, not having a navigator is bad for the bottom line,” explained Ryan.

Patient navigation is an emerging field that many see as one of the top ten jobs in the coming decade. Navigators work with patients managing a variety of diagnoses including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sickle cell anemia. They are there to make sure that patients stay on track with their treatment plans and remove any barriers that may be stopping them. Transportation, communication, finances and other common issues can all negatively impact a patient’s progress. Patient navigators help patients avoid roadblocks when possible and break through them when necessary.

If you would like to learn more about patient navigation visit The Center for Health Affairs Patient Experience webpage or contact Carol Santalucia, vice president, CHAMPS Patient Experience at 216.255.3636 or carol.santalucia@chanet.org.


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