GCI recently launched a Patient Navigation Program in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The Principal Investigators, Dr. Angélica Nogueira Rodrigues and Dr. Carolina Martins Vieira, with the help of the Patient Navigator, Ruth Pires, have already begun enrolling patients in the program. Read about how the team got involved and how they think patient navigation will improve outcomes for patients at Hospital das Clínicas da UMFG.
Could you tell us about how you became involved in this project?
Carolina: My first contact with GCI was when the team visited Belo Horizonte in the beginning of 2017, when Professor Angélica Nogueira Rodrigues introduced me. We were already studying themes for my Masters degree project and I got very excited with the idea of starting a navigation program in our university with the support of such a great institution as GCI.
What inspired you to start a patient navigation program?
C: As an oncologist working in the public health system, I constantly experience the patients’ obstacles to receive oncological care and access to radiotherapy has been an important issue for many years. We thought that a patient navigation program would be a great way to try to overcome the barriers to radiotherapy.
Could you tell us about your role in the program?
C: Guided by Professor Angélica, I act as an investigator in the program, working with our navigator on a daily basis. We talk about the project with the whole medical team including the secretaries, check charts to identify candidates, introduce the project to the patients and include them. When the navigator identifies the obstacles, I try to help to overcome them through available resources. I also review all the data collected and work on strategies so the program performs better.
Could you tell us about the cancer situation in Belo Horizonte and why patient navigation is so important for patients?
C: There are many obstacles to oncological care, including lack of personnel and equipment, low patient educational level, long distances from cancer centers and a fragmented system that makes the patient feel even more lost in the process.
What has been the most enjoyable part of this process so far?
C: In my routine as a doctor, sometimes there is not enough time to identify and act on the obstacles to the treatment because we see many patients. By including them in the project, we are able to give more attention to their particular demands and help them in a more profound way. I also appreciate the opportunity to work with such an important institution such as GCI.
What impact do you expect to see from this program?
C: With the program, I expect to lower the time patients wait to start radiotherapy and improve their adherence and satisfaction. With these results, we can bring attention to patient navigation as an important strategy for our vulnerable patients and try to implement this tool in a more permanent way at our institution.
How will you use what you have learned from this program in the future?
C: I think it will help me to better identify obstacles that patients may face during their oncological treatment, in order to take actions to overcome them.
Is there anything else you would like to tell people about the program?
C: Patient navigation is an important tool to improve oncological results for vulnerable patients. After a navigator is trained, having such a professional on the team is very helpful in using available resources, especially when they are not sufficient, in a proper way. I think navigation is a feasible tool that would not demand a substantial budget from the government compared to its benefits.
What does patient navigation mean to you?
The opportunity for many patients in a vulnerable situation to receive adequate treatment without cost and in proper time through a team that guides and joins the care according to the need of each patient, respecting his uniqueness. In addition to that, patient navigation includes articulating and eliminating barriers to ensure continuity at different points in the course of the treatment.
What is your role for patients in Belo Horizonte?
I believe that my role for the patients is to act as a bridge between the patient, the health facilities and the partner resources. In addition to that, also listening, analyzing, dialoguing, accompanying, encouraging, sharing responsibilities and setting goals with patients. Always aiming for the best throughout the treatment.
Why did you want to become a patient navigator?
Because of the direct contact with patients and all the social issues that involve the history of patient navigation, long before it was implemented in Brazil. I was charmed by the idea of following patients who were users of the Public Health System throughout the disease process without any cost to them, aiming only to benefit them. All this made me believe that the project would be a great opportunity to acquire qualification and knowledge for my professional and personal life.
What have you enjoyed so far?
What I liked the most was the social support I am being able to provide for the patients throughout the process. The oncological process itself is already difficult and in addition to that obstacles appear. I believe that the project ends up being a very important support that goes beyond the clinical support that is added.
What has been challenging so far?
I believe that everything is new and includes an adaptation process that is challenging for both the project team and patients. But I am very happy and committed to facing the challenges ahead the best way that I can.