Patient Navigation Project Builds Foundation to Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes

June 27, 2019
Kristie L. Kahl

With a goal of championing the value of patient navigators, Susan G. Komen Greater New York City and NYU Langone have teamed up to provide patients with improved care in Brooklyn through a new patient navigation project.

With a goal of championing the value of patient navigators, Susan G. Komen Greater New York City and NYU Langone have teamed up to provide patients with improved care in Brooklyn through a new patient navigation project.

“With this project, we expect to build a solid foundation for us to serve our expanding breast cancer patient population in Brooklyn and to meaningfully improve their outcomes,” explained JoAnne Jaravata, BSN, RN, patient nurse navigator at NYU Langone Health in Brooklyn.

“We will utilize our existing resources that we have in the larger institutions within NYU Langone Health to help create new clinical endeavors in Brooklyn. The intent is to bring the best of NYU’s services to the residents of Brooklyn — one of the most vulnerable populations in New York state that has historically been underserved,” she added. “Ultimately, our goal is to improve patient satisfaction and patient outcomes.”

Susan G. Komen Greater New York City provides grant funding toward patient navigation programs aimed to ensure Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latina women living in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Richmond County, and Rockland, Westchester and Suffolk counties are receiving proper screening and treatment, and support programs.

NYU Langone Medical Center received one of the organization’s grants to employ a patient navigator pilot program at NYU Brooklyn. At the 3rd Annual Patient Navigation Conference, held on June 25, in New York City, Jaravata and her colleague Janet Yeh, MD, clinical assistant professor of surgery, Department of Surgery, New York Langone Hospitals in Brooklyn, discussed the program and its importance in growing a breast cancer program at their institution.

“Our overall goal with the patient navigator program was to help identify and remove barriers to care. What I realized was that we have such a diverse patient population,” Jaravata said, adding that bridging communication gaps is one of the project’s main goals.

Communication is key, first, in working with patients to help them understand their diagnosis and also follow up with treatment. However, language has been a reoccurring challenge Jaravata has come across. She explained that communication with the patient as well as their families is key, and that offering educational materials in different languages is needed.

In addition to breaking down communication barriers, the patient navigator also coordinates appointments ensuring that they have timely follow-up with providers for their care — a goal that Yeh noted was the most valuable so far.

“The best outcome has been follow-up to care and time to treat. A lot of times patients, when they make a phone call to make an appointment for themselves, they don’t know to be their own advocate and sometimes they are shy in that aspect,” Yeh said.

For example, she explained, if a newly-diagnosed patient needs a second biopsy and calls to make an appointment, they may not mention that they are a patient with cancer. In turn, they could be given an appointment a month away rather than one that is expedited given the situation.

“That was the original process of things; whereas, now, we can be their advocate and say that is unacceptable and the process needs to expedited; we’ll call for them and say this is a priority and the patient has an active disease that is being treated, so the appointment needs to be done in an expedited matter,” explained Yeh.

“The department has been extremely welcoming with that and they appreciate us as well because, for them, they had no idea in the past and want to work with us in that aspect,” she added. “A lot of people don’t realize that patients are afraid to be their own advocate and they need that support, and that is where Joanne has come in (as a patient navigator).”

In addition, the patient navigator understands each patient’s individual needs and works with supporting services, identifying genetic counseling and providing insight into any barriers that may be coming up in terms of their care. Lastly, they also find solutions for those who may be uninsured or are having issues with insurance coverage.

“Each patient has their unique needs and different challenges, so just really tailoring care to whatever their challenges are is the big part of the patient navigation piece,” Jaravata said.