Health Policy

Patient navigator reported patient barriers and delivered activities in two large federally-funded cancer screening programs

Barrington, W.E.; DeGroff, A.; Melillo, S.; Vu, T.; Cole, A.; Escoffery, C.; Askelson, N.M.; Seegmiller, L.; Gonzalez, S.Koopman; Hannon, P.


Few data are available on patient navigators (PNs) across diverse roles and organizational settings that could inform optimization of patient navigation models for cancer prevention. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) and the Colorectal Cancer and Control Program (CRCCP) are two federally-funded screening programs that support clinical- and community-based PNs who serve low-income and un- or underinsured populations across the United States. An online survey assessing PN characteristics, delivered activities, and patient barriers to screening was completed by 437 of 1002 identified PNs (44%). Responding PNs were racially and ethnically diverse, had varied professional backgrounds and practice-settings, worked with diverse populations, and were located within rural and urban/suburban locations across the U.S. More PNs reported working to promote screening for breast/cervical cancers (BCC, 94%) compared to colorectal cancer (CRC, 39%). BCC and CRC PNs reported similar frequencies of individual- (e.g., knowledge, motivation, fear) and community-level patient barriers (e.g., beliefs about healthcare and screening). Despite reporting significant patient structural barriers (e.g., transportation, work and clinic hours), most BCC and CRC PNs delivered individual-level navigation activities (e.g., education, appointment reminders). PN training to identify and champion timely and patient-centered adjustments to organizational policies, practices, and norms of the NBCCEDP, CRCCP, and partner organizations may be beneficial. More research is needed to determine whether multilevel interventions that support this approach could reduce structural barriers and increase screening and diagnostic follow-up among the marginalized communities served by these two important cancer-screening programs.