AMA: Boost patient navigator communication, disclosure to enhance care

Hospitals continue to add patient navigators to their healthcare teams. But in order for them to enhance the quality of patient care, they need increased communication and transparency, delegates said at the American Medical Association (AMA) interim meeting last month, reports Family Practice News.

They recommend patient navigator programs facilitate direct contact between the navigator and the patient's medical team, as well as full disclosure of relevant training, experience, credentials and potential conflicts of interest to patients they serve, according the delegates' preliminary report.

That will require the AMA to work with the American College of Surgeons and other provider groups "to ensure that patient navigators are free of bias, do not have any role in directing referrals, do not usurp the physician's role in and responsibility for patient education or treatment planning, and act under the direction of the physician or physicians primarily responsible for each patient's care," the report states.

Although the report acknowledges that patient navigators foster patient empowerment and provide patients with information that enables them to make informed healthcare decisions, the AMA delegates worry navigators could end up undermining physician care instead of improving it.

The delegates also expressed concern that navigators could steer patients away from particular physicians in favor of others with whom they have an established relationship.

But according to Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society (ACS) and a delegate from the American College of Physicians, the ACS navigator program is designed to help underserved patients access medical care, not steer them away from physicians, notes Family Practice News. "They need our help to get through this system, otherwise they fall through the cracks, they don't get the care in a timely fashion, and they suffer as a result," he said.

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the AMA preliminary report (.pdf)