Patient Navigation Programs a Tremendous Boost for Patient-Centered Care in Oncology

Karyl Blaseg, RN, MS, OCN, writes about the important role of patient navigators in preventing healthcare disparities and promoting patient-centered care among cancer patients.

The founding of patient navigation is commonly attributed to Harold P. Freeman, MD, and his concerns of healthcare disparities, in particular, correlations between poverty, culture, social injustice, and disease outcomes. In 1990, Freeman created the first navigation program in Harlem, New York, which consisted of outreach community education and access to free mammography screening for low-income women paired with trained navigators who assisted women in traversing the healthcare system, eliminating barriers to care, and thereby improving the timeliness of care between abnormal finding, diagnostic resolution, and treatment initiation.

Throughout the 2 decades following these pioneering efforts, oncology care continues to be transformed through the widespread adoption and expansion of patient navigation programs along with a continued focus on eliminating healthcare disparities and improving the patient experience.

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