Q: What kind of help can you get from a patient navigator?
A: A navigator can become your guide through the complex health care system, and that can be especially useful for patients with chronic illnesses and limited energy to deal with the details.
The services provided by navigators vary according to where you go for your medical care.
OSF HealthCare recently added patient navigators who are centralized scheduling staff members for patients in its Champaign-Urbana and Danville areas, according to Jami Greenlee, manager of patient access.
The OSF navigators can make appointments for patients and answer their questions about referrals, insurance coverage and various care services available through OSF, she said.
OSF had this kind of help available before, but making it available in this centralized way is intended to help make things easier for patients and their families, Greenlee said.
The Carle health system offers nurse navigators who see patients through the entire care process — from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up.
These nurse navigators work in oncology, cardiology, pulmonary medicine and digestive health departments, and are intended to guide patients who need a lot of contact with the health care system, said Cheryl Murdock, a Carle nurse navigator who works with cancer patients.
She and other nurse navigators help patients understand their diagnosis and treatments options, schedule their appointments, talk through their test results and provide education and connections to support services.
“What I do is break down barriers for them in health care,” Murdock said.
Patients newly diagnosed with a disease may not necessarily know the kinds of help they’re going to need beyond their medical caregivers — for example dieticians, financial counselors and social workers, she said.
They may also not know how to protect their jobs while they’re ill, for instance, how to exercise their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Murdock said.
Nurse navigators are provided free through Carle, and patients are linked to navigators through their doctors’ offices, Murdock said.
Greenlee said OSF navigators are open to all OSF patients and can also serve as a patient’s entry point into the OSF system. Navigators can be reached by calling 217-431-4858 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
If you’re a Health Alliance Medical Plans member, you can also access some navigator-like help through Health Alliance’s care coordinators.
They meet with members on the phone or in person and offer such things as help understanding and managing chronic diseases, help setting and reaching wellness goals, self care tips to help stay healthy and care coordination for members with complicated conditions, according to Health Alliance spokesman Aaron Seidlitz.