One important aspect of navigating is giving your patients the feeling of empowerment. Talk to your patients about having them communicate their preferences and priorities for treatment to their healthcare team, and help facilitate shared decision-making in the patient’s healthcare.
As patient navigators, it is important to demonstrate sensitivity and responsiveness to a diverse patient population, including but not limited to diversity in gender, age, culture, race, religion, abilities, and sexual orientation. Navigators are essential to connecting patients with information that is accessible and understandable.
Whether to keep or repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains a matter of congressional debate. The ACA provides important protections for cancer patients, including not allowing health insurance plans to deny or limit coverage because of a cancer diagnosis.
Navigators should be aware of health literacy in their patients, and identify appropriate and credible resources responsive to patient needs (practical, social, physical, emotional, spiritual). Navigators need to take into consideration reading level, health literacy, culture, language and amount of information desired.
Navigators have a critical role in highlighting system bottlenecks and health care inefficiencies. At the GW Cancer Center, largely due to patient navigators speaking up, a policy advocacy effort was prioritized to improve access to chemotherapy for Medicaid patients.
It is important for navigators to take a holistic view of their patients knowing their medical history and even other variables that could affect their health, such as their sexual orientation. You may ask why sexual orientation is important, and the reasoning is that the LGBTQ is at greater risk for certain cancers. For example, did you know that lesbian and bisexual women have a greater risk for more aggressive breast cancer? Or, did you know gay men have a higher risk for anal cancer?
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