Recent research suggests that one’s geographic location may be just as important as genetics in determining health. But for patients in underserved communities, patient navigators make a world of difference as reported by Healthcare IT News.
Many hospitals, especially those located in major cities, are in areas whose populations face high levels of chronic illness and low life expectancy. Often, residents are not able to access necessary treatments due to cost, transportation issues and other social factors. That’s not to mention the bureaucratic hurdles that can puzzle even the most socially fortunate patients.
At Kaiser Permanente in Portland, OR, patients are assigned a patient navigator based on their answers on “life situation” forms. These forms ask questions about rent, debts and other social factors that may hinder access to health care. One patient highlighted in the article spoke about the benefits of having a “bureaucratic ninja” of a navigator to guide her through the maze of treatment:
She automatically set up my next few appointments and then set up the rides for them, because that was my No. 1 struggle. She assured me that child care wouldn’t be an issue and that it would be OK if they came. So I brought the kids and everything was easy, just like she said it would be.
Navigators are not a new addition to care, but the life situation forms are. Considering how many variables can affect a person’s ability to get the care they need, probing deeper into social determinants of health rather than the purely physical is another great step on the journey toward comprehensive care quality.