The Era of the Patient Navigator Is Now

Major Conference Discussing the Evolving and Expanding Need for Oncology Patient Navigators
Press Releases published on November 1, 2023

Eric Blinderman
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Finally recognized as a vital part of a cancer patient’s full continuum of care, patient navigators are on the cusp of being formally acknowledged for the important role they play in ensuring a patient’s quality of life and care through their challenging and complex ordeals. Cancer continues to be called the “emperor of all maladies” and, according to the World Health Organization, is the leading cause of death worldwide.

Patient navigators, who provide a wide range of clinical and nonclinical benefits to cancer patients, are expected to have their services “better recognized” and reimbursed through a recent Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The advancement, hailed by many in the medical care field as deserving and overdue, would take effect in 2024, and would be consistent with the White House’s commitment to preventing deaths and improving experiences through the Cancer Moonshot.

The evolving role of the patient navigator will be discussed by experts with keen insights at the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) 14th Annual Navigation & Survivorship Conference in San Antonio on November 15-19. The event will bring together oncology’s most influential navigators, social workers, physicians, and administrators to discuss the navigator’s evolving and expanding role. Panelists will address how oncology navigator certification will validate the role and the positive impact it will have on patient care in the United States.

While thousands of patient navigators have provided services under the title for years, their services have not been eligible for reimbursement through Medicare, despite wide acceptance from the medical community that they play a vital role in a patient’s spectrum of care.

“It was beyond overwhelming when I was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer at the same time. I knew so little about it. Fortunately, my surgeon’s hospital was affiliated with a very effective and innovative navigator. I threw myself into many of the programs and am still participating and learning from these life- affirming and incredible programs 7 years after my diagnosis,” said patient Anne W.

Working with a professional navigator is often a cancer patient’s first step in the treatment journey, a time filled with confusion. Helping a patient at this difficult time, and throughout their treatment and survivorship, is seen as a primary element of a patient’s total care. Patient navigators often break down barriers to needed treatments.

“Navigators are positioned well to work across the care team to facilitate integration of care team services to benefit patients. I see navigators as fulfilling a key role in the emerging patient-centric care models. I have experienced first- hand in my work as a navigator the privilege of walking closely with patients and caregivers who are experiencing a cancer diagnosis and the impact navigation can have on their clinical and emotional journey," said Emily Gentry, BSN, RN, HON-ONN-CG, OCN, Executive Director, Strategy & Operations, AONN+.

Cancer patients in the United States benefit from a range of services from patient navigators throughout their journey, including individualized assistance to patients, survivors, and families that ranges from medication management, financial and insurance counseling, mitigating adverse events, and vital coordination with other medical professionals.

“During my almost five decades of involvement in the treatment of cancer patients, I have witnessed incredible innovations and improvements in patient care. These advances have been matched and enhanced by the creation of oncology nurse and patient navigators who have enriched the journey for patients and caregivers in countless ways,” said Dr Frederick L. Greene, FACS, Medical Director, Cancer Data Services at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, N.C.

About the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators, Inc. (AONN+)
The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators, Inc. (AONN+), is the largest national specialty organization dedicated to improving patient care and quality of life by defining, enhancing, and promoting the role of oncology nurse and patient navigators. The organization, which has more than 9,000 members, was founded in 2009 to provide a network for all professionals involved and interested in patient navigation and survivorship care services in order to better manage the complexities of the cancer treatment process.