Oncology Patient Advocate, Navigator or Health Advocate
Oncology is the study and treatment of tumors and related malignancies. A medical expert in this field is called an oncologist. There are three major types of oncologists. These are:
1. Medical oncologist. This is a specialist who has advanced in the treatment of cancers using drugs – chemotherapy.
2. Surgical oncologist is one who specializes in operative procedures relating to cancer.
3. Radiotherapy oncologist is the specialist who has majored in cancer treatment using radiation therapy.
In resource poor countries and localities a general radiologist may have to play all the three roles. However, in the U.S there are enough specialists in each group and so most patients are bound to get the best care possible.
With this understanding, it is now easier to understand who an oncology patient navigator is. A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating to the patient and also to their relatives. Many patients are overwhelmed, fearful; confused by the cancer diagnosis so that they cannot comprehend what doctors might be trying to tell them. Others become angry with themselves or even the society. This can happen if the cancer is related to a bad lifestyle choice, like smoking, or an occupation where the patient was exposed to cancer risks. In this situation an oncology patient navigator can be helpful.
These patient navigators are trained to understand the whole spectrum of cancer care so that they understand how best to deal with various scenarios – from the time of cancer screening, treatment and after-care. Research indicates that patients who get the services of an oncology patient navigator cope much better than those who do not.
To maintain standards most of the oncology patient navigators are registered with the National Association of Health Care Advocacy – NAHCAC.
Although many cancer centers and hospitals in the country have these navigators, a patient or their family can hire their own. This can be expensive and probably not covered by insurance but the family is sure to get individualized service. A hospital oncology navigator has to care for many more patients.
U.S Hospitals with Oncology Patient Navigators
Many cancer centers and hospitals in the U.S have some kind of oncology patient navigators. The list below is only a small fraction of some of the best hospitals with this service.
3. Covenant Medical Center (Waterloo Iowa)
4. Duke University Hospital (Durham N.C)
5. John Hopkins Medicine (Baltimore)
7. Mayo Clinic (Rochester Minneapolis)
The Role of an Oncology Patient Navigator
In the complex health system of the U.S coupled with the devastating cancer diagnosis, a patient can easily give up unless guided properly. The oncology patient navigator fills this role. They help patients through the various departments within the hospital during treatment and even during post-treatment follow-up visits. Apart from helping the patients to understand what to expect with the particular cancer and related activities, they also:
· Assist the patient to get needed financial assistance.
· Connects patients with social support.
· Helps patients understand things to do with insurance.
· They even arrange transport to and from home for patients’ and their care giver.
This arrangement has proved very useful in poor communities. Here, patients are more likely to be facing other social challenges so that without outside help, their compliance to therapy would be very low.
Government trained patient navigators are part of the government’s effort to make sure that all Americans have access to good healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.