The healthcare system is a complex organization, especially for laypeople with no background in the medical field. Half of the time, people do not know where to go, how to proceed, or what kind of treatment to get when experiencing a health issue.
Despite efforts to increase public knowledge, many people still have a hard time accessing the healthcare system, which can be due to several factors, like:
- Lack of information, experience, and knowledge in health-related information.
- Distrust to healthcare providers.
- Inaccessible healthcare system
- No health insurance or medical coverage
- False perception about healthcare
But with the help of a healthcare navigator, patients, companies, and employers can easily navigate the health system without barriers. They will help address your hindrances and accompany you every step of the way.
However, not many people are familiar with what a navigator does. Below, we will discuss what a healthcare navigator is, its importance, and its benefits to society.
Healthcare Navigators: What Are Their Role in the Society?
Have you ever felt at a loss with what to do after you get diagnosed with a disease? The obvious course of action would be to trust and follow what your doctor told you, right? But should you?
When you are experiencing a health-related crossroad, the best thing to do is seek a healthcare navigator’s help.
A healthcare navigator refers to a skilled individual or organization who aims to help patients, small businesses, employers, and employees navigate the healthcare system.
Healthcare navigators can render their services in either of these two niches: the health payer’s space or clinical space.
1. The Health Payer’s Space
Health payers refer to companies that pay a set amount to healthcare providers for their medical services. This includes insurance companies, third-party health insurance administrators, or government medical programs.
Healthcare navigators can usually be found in the health payer’s space. Their role in it includes:
- Help payers look for eligible medical coverages for their employees and complete enrollment and eligibility forms needed.
- Explaining health insurance plans to purchasers and beneficiaries.
- Looking for the best insurance package for the payer’s purchasers and their beneficiaries.
- Guides consumers and beneficiaries throughout the whole process of acquiring a health insurance plan (e.g., documentation, paper application, explaining its pros and cons)
2. The Clinical Space or Setting
Although a bit uncommon, healthcare navigators can also be found in the clinical or hospital setting. They aim to help patients navigate the maze that is the healthcare system. Some of their specific roles in the clinical space include:
- Assist patients in finding the right treatment and going through with all of it (i.e., screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up check-up).
- Help patients understand their illnesses or diagnosis so they can make sound decisions regarding their health.
- Explain to them their healthcare packages or plans.
- Help patients come to terms with their illness and offer emotional support throughout their whole treatment.
- Help patients find, communicate, and voice out their concerns with their healthcare providers.
Healthcare navigators can be a nurse, doctor, or any healthcare professional. But they can also be a layperson specifically trained to become a healthcare navigator.
Importance of Healthcare Navigators in 2021
2020 has been a technology-driven year, what with the rise of healthcare apps, telemedicine, and AI-powered devices. 2021 will be no different. It can be a little intimidating and challenging to navigate, especially for the minorities (of the society) not used to handle such technologies.
Moreover, with the rampant spread of a new virus, it has become clear that the public needs expert guidance around the healthcare system through healthcare navigators. Here are some of the benefits they already contributed to patients, companies, and society.
1. Improved Quality of Care
According to surveys, the work done by healthcare navigators caused the decline of emergency admissions by 6% and hospital admissions by 8%. Improved quality of healthcare can also be seen in the declining need for emergency interventions to patients.
Unlike traditional health professionals, healthcare navigators have a patient-centered approach, which allows them to interact with patients on an emotional level. Thus, resulting in a proactive and well-informed patient or consumer.
2. Reduced Patient Expenses
With a knowledgeable individual to guide patients, they will not have to lose their money in treatments and therapies that they do not need. They can clearly communicate with their healthcare provider and be given all the options available for them, making their payment worthwhile.
A better understanding of their diagnosis allows them to make sound decisions regarding their healthcare needs. Thus, resulting in less treatment mismanagement and medical services costs.
Moreover, surveys suggested that healthcare navigators help reduce patient costs by $781.29 per patient per quarter in the cancer department alone.
3. A Surge in Healthcare Organization’s Customer Satisfaction
Navigators had also helped healthcare organizations lower their expenses and even up their return on investment by 1:10.
They greatly contributed to these organizations’ improvement, especially when it comes to customer service and satisfaction.
The presence and skills of a healthcare navigator make health companies more trusting and credible. Their transparency to customers and patient-centered approach makes for a more amicable relationship with consumers and beneficiaries.
4. Removed Disparities in Healthcare
Despite living in the 21st century, health disparities (race, ethnicity, gender, age, and socio-economic standing) still hinder access to quality healthcare and medical services.
But navigators, especially those working within their local environment, can bridge the gap between social minorities and the healthcare system. Some of the factors that prevent people from their right to quality health service include:
- Racial and ethnic minorities
- Women and children
- Persons with disability
- Low-income families
All the individuals mentioned above can get individualized help from their local healthcare navigator--from pre-diagnosis to treatment and follow up appointments.
The presence of a trusted healthcare navigator can:
- Prevent the development of diseases through early detection.
- Get the patient easy access to health care services and even the coordination of healthcare professionals.
- Help them get the best health insurance coverage, its continuity, and when to use it.
- Help patients build their lost trust and respect for the healthcare system.