Healthcare News & Insights

How patient navigators help hospitals

More and more hospitals are using patient navigators to help coordinate patient care post-discharge. And these facilities are reaping the benefits. 

178770461Patient navigators are non-clinicians who perform follow-up interventions with patients shortly after they leave the hospital. The navigators help patients make appointments with providers and address non-clinical barriers to receiving care, including issues with communication and finances.

How they help

Results from a recent study show just how beneficial these professionals are to hospitals. According to a a news release, three hospitals in Western Pennsylvania were chosen to participate in a pilot program funded by the Highmark Foundation and Accenture to see whether navigators would improve patient outcomes.

Certified patient navigators provided services to almost 4,000 patients at St. Vincent Health System, Allegheny Valley and Jameson Health System.

Besides arranging follow-up appointments, navigators also performed other helpful tasks for patients. Some picked up prescriptions from hospital pharmacies. Others helped patients find transportation to medical appointments and connected them to key community resources.

At the end of the year-long pilot program, each hospital reported positive results. One had a 60% reduction in 30-day readmissions. And together, all three facilities reported a 43% decrease in emergency department use by frequent visitors.

In addition to these benefits, hospital patients were also more likely to receive primary care services that helped them stay healthy – specifically, screening colonoscopies. Thanks to information they received from navigators, 13% more patients underwent a colonoscopy to look for early signs of colon cancer.

More benefits

Navigators are helpful because they allow clinical staff to focus on caring for patients. They don’t have to worry about coordinating follow-ups with patients, or addressing other non-clinical matters both during the patient’s hospital stay and after discharge.

Navigators also keep clinical staff from burning out. Clinicians don’t feel so overextended during their shifts, because they can spend their time on patient care and not administrative matters.

Research shows that, along with reducing emergency room use and improving patient outcomes, patient navigators also help reduce no-show rates for facilities since they directly address many of the underlying issues that cause patients to miss appointments for tests and procedures.

Patient navigators of all cultures and backgrounds are trained to work with patients of similar backgrounds, so it may be easier for them to relate to patients on a personal level. That can allow facilities to take a more patient-centered approach to providing care, which will be key as Medicare and other insurance carriers switch to alternative models for reimbursement.

It may be worth your while to see if your facility can fit a few patient navigators into your staffing budget. Not only will navigators take some non-clinical work off doctors’ and nurses’ plates, they can also improve patients’ long-term outcomes. And this is key for hospitals in today’s healthcare climate.

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