Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Navigators improve cancer screening rates

Copyright: Andose, used under license 123rf
CANCER DIGEST – June 22, 2016 – Having a navigator is an ancient method of ensuring you get where you want to go. It appears it is no less true when it comes to navigating the complex US healthcare system.

A new study by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) shows that patients who had navigators, individuals who assist patients in receiving healthcare services, may improve comprehensive cancer screening rates among patients who are not likely to seek recommended screenings.

The study led by Sanja Percac-Lima, MD, PhD, physician leader for cancer outreach at the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement identified patients across 18 MGH primary care practices, including four community health centers, who were at-risk of not completing recommended cancer screenings. The results of the study appear in the June  2016  JAMA Internal Medicine

Among 1,626 identified at-risk patients, 792 were randomly assigned a patient navigator who would provide intense outreach and guidance to assist in obtaining screenings. The remaining 820 received usual care. Navigators contacted patients in their own language, educated and encouraged them, arranged transportation and accompanied them to visits, and helped overcome any other barriers to obtaining screening.

Results showed that 32 percent of patients who were successfully connected with patient navigators completed at least one overdue cancer screening, compared with 18 percent of patients in the control group.

“These findings demonstrate how effective patient navigators can be for patients who, for a variety of reasons, encounter obstacles to receiving cancer screening,” Sanja Percac-Lima said in a press release. “Health disparities pose a major challenge to low-income and ethnic minority patients, and our study suggests a proactive approach may help increase their chances of receiving the care they need.”  

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