Summit Focuses on Patient Navigation

NASW participated in an advisory council meeting for the National Patient Navigator Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

The event, cosponsored by the American Cancer Society, pulled together cancer research advocates, representatives from government-funded patient navigation programs, pharmaceutical funders and educators to discuss ways to improve the patient navigation process.

The unique quality of this patient navigation meeting was the fact that all medical conditions — not just cancer — were considered, said Karyn Walsh, senior practice adviser at NASW. Walsh attended the meeting and represented social work in patient navigation and NASW perspectives as part of the advisory process.

The two-day summit focused on ways the different groups can guide the development of common outcome measures for patient navigation across the disease continuum, from prevention to diagnosis to survivorship or end-of-life care.

Angelina Esparza, director of the American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program, said attendees confirmed that common outcome measures need to be developed, as well as practical ways to examine measures across the illness continuum.

The advisory council was able to develop a framework for the outcomes, which was still being drafted at this article's deadline. Once completed, the framework will guide dialogue at future meetings of the National Patient Navigator Leadership Summit, Esparza said. The advisory council will continue to revise and update the development of the common outcome measures as well.

According to Esparza, the advisory council reached a consensus on the following:

  • Common metrics will help to strengthen the field of patient navigation by providing an evidence-based approach from program planning through evaluation and research.
  • A core set of common data elements is necessary for effective comparative analyses.
  • Patient navigator programs/projects are encouraged to build program and evaluation around the core elements.
  • Programs will inherently have varying resources and capacity for data collection and program evaluation, and the members of the National Patient Navigator Leadership Summit will take these differences into account when developing metrics to allow for programs to select metrics appropriate to their readiness and capacity.
  • Development of common outcome measures should be a collaborative process, including a multidisciplinary and diverse approach of perspectives.
  • Core elements, metrics and recommendations will be developed in a way to be implemented across all settings.
  • The metrics will include quantitative and qualitative measures.
  • A clear dissemination plan will be developed.


In other NASW cancer-related events, a new report, "Best Practices in Psychosocial Oncology Exchange Between Hungary and the United States of America," is available online in both English and Hungarian.

The document highlights the November 2008 psychosocial oncology summit in Hungary that served as an initial step in addressing cancer care in the region. Like many like other former Soviet Bloc countries, Hungary faces challenges in dealing with the growth of cancer diagnoses and the importance of prevention and early diagnosis, Walsh said.

NASW and CancerCare Inc. partnered on the project through a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation to exchange best practices in psychosocial care and services for people with cancer in the U.S. and Hungary.

The report includes 10 imperatives devised at the summit and the ways to achieve them. They include:

  • Continue to build a network between multidisciplinary professionals and organizations in psychosocial oncology.
  • Increase training opportunities for volunteers who work with individuals affected by cancer and their loved ones.
  • Define and disseminate social work competencies in health and psychosocial oncology.
  • Develop a standard of practice so that every oncology unit has a social worker and psychologist available to patients and families.

Each of the 10 imperatives is achieving some level of success, the report noted.