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Plus Pointers

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.

As a navigator, it’s important to set learning and improvement goals, and identify and perform learning activities that address one’s gaps in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities.

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.
One aspect navigators should consider learning is how to communicate effectively with patients, families, and the public to build trusting relationships across a broad range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
Patient navigators are critical in getting patients into guideline-adherent colorectal cancer screening.
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?
Accurate recordkeeping is important for patient safety, quality of care, and system improvements. Grant-funded navigators use data to show the funder the impact of their work with patients.
Patients come into the healthcare system with various levels of health literacy, experience, and comfort with the professionals and systems in which they find themselves. Patient navigators work to assess the patient’s capacity to self-advocate and to make informed decisions regarding their care. Navigators also work behind the scenes with members of the health care team to educate them about each patient’s unique needs including their strengths as well as areas where they may need more assistance.
The patient navigator plays a vital role in assuring that the patient has access to the resources and services that they need to optimize their wellness. Ongoing support to encourage adherence to the agreed-upon treatment plan is also critical.
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