Introducing Patient Navigation to the Caribbean
Patient navigation is a patient-centered healthcare model that focuses on eliminating barriers to timely diagnosis and management of chronic diseases such as cancer. In the Caribbean, patients often need to overcome barriers such as the coordination of care between different physicians, long wait times for appointments, and the the unavailability of drugs while simultaneously dealing with the emotional, financial and psychological implications of a diagnosis. Patients also experience personal barriers such as a lack of financial resources and insufficient support at home.
After the program was first initiated in by Harold Freeman in Harlem, New York in 1990, it reported impressive success in improving 5-year breast cancer survival rates from 39% to 70% with the detection of early stage breast cancer cases increasing from 6% to 41%. Various iterations of this program have since been implemented across the world. Patient navigators have increasingly become a norm in the US and Canada, largely driven by patient demand.
Other documented benefits include provision of better and more reliable services to underserved and vulnerable populations; increases in the efficiency and quality of care; and the reduction of gaps in care. In summary, a patient navigation program is successful because it facilitates the timely movement of patients through complex healthcare continuums. This function is most effectively carried out through a one-on-one relationship between the patient navigator and the patient.