Patient Navigators

Three years ago, you helped the Alberta Cancer Foundation roll out a Patient Navigator Program to all 15 community cancer centres outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

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Since then, Alberta cancer patients and their families are reporting an improved experience with the health care system since the launch of a provincewide patient navigation program.

Your investment to the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Patient Navigator Program has increased patient and family satisfaction with cancer services by 15 per cent since the program was rolled out three years.

During that time, more than 5,000 Albertans have been supported by about 15 patient navigators– registered nurses who work closely with cancer patients, families and other health-care professionals to co-ordinate care.

These patient navigators are found in the community and associate cancer centres across Alberta, and understand the additional challenges rural Albertans face when going with the disease. Not only do they struggle with the emotional, financial and physical components of their diagnosis and treatment, they also face additional travel and financial burdens if they need to receive treatment in Calgary or Edmonton.

Jessica Franks calls the Patient Navigator Program “one of the smartest things to be introduced to the health-care system.”

Franks says the program provided invaluable support to her and her mother, Carol, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer last year, and passed away last December.

"We knew nothing about cancer before and this was a traumatic, frightening time for us. Our navigator was such a comfort for us. No matter what we asked – from family counselling to home care needs to recovering from surgery – our navigator was a soothing source of help. I can’t imagine what that time would have been like without her by our side."

- Jessica Franks

Patient navigators explain treatment choices and test results, and assist with the physical, practical and emotional challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis. Typically, patients and family members contact a patient navigator between one and five times from cancer diagnosis through to treatment and followup.

Patients and families who have used the program have reported that navigators contributed to a sense of stability and security; ensured timely access to information required for decision-making; co-ordinated additional supports in their communities; and offered individualized care to meet specific areas of need.

You helped the Alberta Cancer Foundation contributed $1.8 million between 2012 and 2014 to launch the program, and together we will contribute an additional $4.6 million to run the program until 2019.

"Through our patient navigators, we are putting patients first by providing a single point of contact for information and support."

- Vickie Kaminski, President and CEO of Alberta Health Services (AHS)

Dr. Linda Watson, Lead of Person Centred Care for AHS, says the program also frees up resources throughout the health system.

“We’re finding the Alberta Cancer Foundation Patient Navigator Program is improving the cancer journey for those who live outside of the province’s two largest cities because these Albertans now have a dedicated support person in or near their community to help them with their specific cancer care needs,”

- Dr. Linda Watson, Lead of Person Centred Care for AHS

“Going to your family doctor or the emergency department for cancer-related questions and needs is not always the best use of health resources. Introducing patient navigators early in the cancer journey can actually help change the way patients use the system. Navigators can sometimes prevent the need for a physician visit or trip to the emergency room.”

According to the recent program evaluation, the proportion of patients who visited an emergency department for cancer-related symptoms dropped from 22 per cent pre-navigation to 15 per cent post-navigation. Similarly, the proportion of patients who reported hospital stays for symptom management after the introduction of the navigator role was cut by more than half, dropping from 14 per cent pre-navigation to six per cent post-navigation.

Thank you for investing in the Alberta Cancer Foundation Patient Navigator Program, you are making life better for families like the Franks.


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