The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), a not-for-profit alliance of 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers, is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN member institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the healthcare delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other healthcare decision makers. The primary goal of all NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives.
We know from evidence-based medicine that the NCCN treatment guidelines, which are regularly updated as new research outcomes become available, are truly the gold standard for providing cancer treatment today.
A key role for a nurse navigator is to help ensure that the cancer patients they are navigating are receiving treatment in keeping with the NCCN treatment guidelines. Where pitfalls exist is in the referral process to a provider outside of the setting in which the navigator works. So a patient may be referred to a radiation oncologist at facility X that is not affiliated with the cancer center where the navigator is employed, and the patient may or may not keep the appointment. Or the patient keeps the appointment but doesn’t really grasp the importance of receiving the radiation treatments and opts to not receive the adjuvant therapy. The result is that the patient’s care is incomplete and clearly not matching up with NCCN treatment guidelines.
If you aren’t already, consider providing your patients with copies of the NCCN treatment guidelines that are specific for their cancer and broken down by stage of the disease. They are now available on a relatively new Web site NCCN has created that is patient friendly and explains the information in layman’s terms. Go to www.nccn.com. To review the guidelines written for healthcare professionals, go to www.nccn.org.
Additionally, a powerful quality measure for navigators to track is the percentage of patients who are receiving their care in keeping with this standard compared with the percentage of patients who were receiving treatment matching NCCN treatment guidelines before a navigator existed. We know that navigators help patients get the treatment they need so that more cancer patients survive their disease.