Patient Navigators as Essential Members of the Healthcare Team: A Review of the Literature
In the U.S. an estimated 2.5 trillion dollars was spent on the management of chronic diseases. Today, a major problem being experienced is soaring healthcare costs. In addition, disparities among the underserved and low socioeconomic individuals exist because many have access needs, which contributed to non-compliance issues. Barriers that contribute to non-compliance may include, but not be limited to: transportation needs; finances; health literacy; cultural beliefs; and lack of education. These barriers can be eradicated with the use of a patient navigator. Patient navigators are health professionals such as a nurse, social worker, or lay person trained to help patients navigate the complex healthcare systems of today. Patient navigators assist patients with managing follow-up appointments, medications, transportation needs, and coordination of care. The use of a patient navigator is also one strategy that can help mitigate the effects of healthcare disparities. The purpose of the review of the literature was to identify the benefits of patient navigators as essential members of the healthcare team. The roles and positive outcomes to patients, as well as to healthcare systems, is described. The improvement in access to healthcare for the poor and underserved has improved patient outcomes which have contributed to lower healthcare costs. The positive outcomes of patient satisfaction and lower healthcare costs are an advantage to healthcare systems. These benefits support the need for patient navigators.