Cancer is a complex disease to treat an patients can be overwhelmed by the number of care providers that they have to consult with. In this scenario, care navigators can provide significant support to patients and their family members.
"Patients may see many providers, including their primary care physician, the oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a pharmacy, and a slew of others, all of whom contribute immeasurably to the process,' said Joseph Alvarnas, MD. But who should carry the responsibility to navigate the patient through the entire cancer care journey, he asked.
Rebekkah Schear, MIA, agreed with Alvarnas that although there have been big strides on ideas for care coordination, implementation barriers exist. A very common encounter for patients, she said, is lack of communication between 2 of their providers who might be part of 2 different healthcare systems. "It's not uncommon that we hear that the patient and their family and caregivers are sort of being bumped around between their primary care provider, between the social worker that might be supporting them, their counselor or psychosocial expert, and their oncologist, the surgical expert, the surgeon that's helping them in addition to any of the other sort of non-clinical providers that are providing support practically and financially as well," she added.
Schear believes that trying to harmonize the team is very important and that reimbursement policies for the navigators, care managers, and the services is a necessary and important amendment for oncology care policies.
Michael Kolodziej, MD, added that care models such as the Oncology Care Model have set aside payment for a care navigator, but he is a firm believer that technology can play a vital role in this process. He emphasized, however, that we need to revamp the fragmentation that exists within information technology (IT) platforms.