Hematology Patient Advocate, Navigator or Health Advocate
Hematology is the study of blood related medicine. This involves the blood forming system, hemopoiesis, which includes the bone marrow, spleen and the lymph nodes. A hematology patient navigator therefore is a specialist who helps the patient and their family go through the various processes and procedures that require blood tests and maybe transfusions.
In many cases, hematology procedures come in due to other medical conditions. Some of these conditions are life-changing or even threatening and so a diagnosis about any of these conditions can leave the patient and family feeling hopeless. Some of diseases and conditions requiring the intervention of a hematologist include:
· Sickle Cell anemia and other blood haemoglobinopathies.
· Leukemia and other blood cancers.
· Hemolytic disease of the newborn.
· Exchange transfusions for whatever reason.
· Bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
· Blood transfusion.
· Venipuncture/phlebotomy for routine blood tests when looking for the total blood count; bacteriology, virology, parasitology and other tests.
A patient navigator in this field may have to liaise with other navigators in specialized fields like oncology patient navigators and surgical patient navigators. In view of this, the navigators may also need to be knowledgeable in the field of cancer or at least have some medical knowledge.
U.S. Hospitals Which Have Hematology Patient Navigator Services
Almost all hospitals have a laboratory where some forms of hematological tests are carried out. However, there are specialized hospitals where complex high level hematological investigations are carried. These may be for more serious diseases and conditions. Some of these centers are also renowned cancer centers. Some of these include:
· Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
The Role of a Hematology Patient Navigator
After a patient is diagnosed with a condition that will require many hematological procedures, for example cancer, they suddenly face a number of challenges. These range from:
· Logistical problems of where to get assistance and the relevant specialists.
· Emotional imbalance.
· Financial crisis.
· General fear of the unknown.
With these challenges and emotional conflict the patient and family may fail to focus on the disease, treatment, healing and the return to normalcy or adapting to the changes the disease bring to their life. The hematology comes in to help the patient and family to successfully face these challenges. They maintain a one on one status with the patient before, during and after treatment. More specific roles include:
· Preparing the patient before arrival to hospital
· Helps the patient to understand the problem they have, the various hematological tests that will be done and their relevance.
· They are a link between patient and the medical specialists dealing with the patient’s problem.
· These navigators are an important link of communication between the hematological team and other medical specialties involved in the case. This is very important in making sure that the patient is treated in a comprehensive and safe way without any treatment conflicts.
· Helps the patient through the treatment phases and involved specialists as well as the various departments that will be involved.
· Helps the patient easily navigate the hospital health care system and the larger, even more complex, national health care system.
· Will help with all the paperwork pertaining to the patient’s admission. This includes hospital bill, future appointments, insurance matters and other types of official matters.
Study has shown that patients who have a navigator do better than their counterparts who have to go it alone or with their family. Those who can afford can hire their own navigator to provide even more individualized hematological care and education.