Patient Navigators Positively Impact Breast Cancer Patient Care

Patient navigators are becoming familiar faces in hospitals across the country. They are individuals with professional medical, legal, financial, or administrative experience who act as an advocate and liaison for patients as they maneuver through the often complex healthcare system. Patient navigator programs were first developed as a method to improve the patient experience and reduce barriers to quality medical care. Patient navigators have been widely adopted in breast imaging practices across the United States.

A group of breast imaging radiologists at the UC San Francisco Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, the Cleveland Medical Center Department of Radiology and the Mayo Clinic Department of Radiology set out to assess the utilization of patient navigators at breast imaging facilities across the country. Amie Lee, MD, assistant professor of Clinical Radiology in the Breast Imaging Section at UCSF Radiology and Bonnie Joe, MD, PhD (section chief), led this multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional effort. She was joined by colleagues Elissa Price, MDJessica Hayward, MD, and Sueann Mark, PhD, RN, CNS.

To gather information, an online survey was distributed to physician members of the Society of Breast Imaging. Questions asked encompassed use of patient navigators in breast imaging including presence and qualifications, roles in patient care, perceived benefits and barriers. Data gathered were analyzed to identify the overall prevalence of patient navigators, their responsibilities and qualifications, and the impact on breast imaging centers.

Overall, the survey was completed by 385 board-certified radiologists (52% private practice and 29% academic). Two-thirds of respondents reported use of a navigator. Their roles varied by practice, but nearly all radiologists using patient navigators found that they positively impacted patient care and would recommend them to other breast imaging practices. You can see more results from the published paper in the Journal of Breast Imaging.

Donna Plecha, MD, FSBI (University Hospital Cleveland Medical Center Department of Radiology) and Genevieve Woodard, MD, PhD (Mayo Clinic Department of Radiology) were also authors on this work.

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