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Pathways to Discovery: Spring 2011

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New Patient Navigation Program Enhances Experience at UChicago

Our patients deserve an efficient system in which they can learn about their disease, understand it, review their options, and develop a plan.
—Mitchell Posner, MD

The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) has launched a program to assist new cancer patients navigate through their initial visits. The goal of the program, called Central Cancer Intake and Navigation, is to increase patient satisfaction by providing a timely, streamlined, coordinated experience for patients and providers from initial contact to completion of consultation.

“Our patients deserve an efficient system in which they can learn about their disease, understand it, review their options, and develop a plan,” said Mitchell Posner, MD, Thomas D. Jones Professor and Vice-Chair of Surgery. “For many patients, a cancer diagnosis is a life-defining moment.”

Dr. Posner, UCCCC Co-Deputy Director Richard Schilsky, MD, and colleagues across several departments and sections, developed the program in response to feedback from patients and providers who want more assistance with the logistics of complex multidisciplinary care.

The program uses specially trained staff, known as cancer navigators, to connect patients and referring physicians with the providers who can best treat a specific disease. Each cancer navigator has experience within a specific disease program and is trained to handle all types of inquiries.

By providing one initial contact point, the program aims to ensure that the patient will see the right providers with the right information in the fewest number of visits to Hyde Park.

“Because we’re facilitating the appointments for multidisciplinary disease programs, we have the patients interacting with one group of people instead of having to go through multiple transfer points,” explained Jamie Bachman, executive director of the UCMC Clinical Cancer Program and the administrative leader for the navigation initiative. He calls this process “one-stop shopping” for new patient appointment-making.

The program currently focuses on the multidisciplinary care coordination for gastrointestinal (GI), genitourinary (GU), breast, and head and neck cancers, as well as all hematology patients. Bachman said other disease programs will likely be added in the future, including pediatric cancers.

The program was modeled after Dr. Posner’s GI oncology program that has been incredibly well-received by both the participating patients and clinicians. Dr. Posner attributes the success to patients feeling that they are a priority.

“The patients feel that their problems are something we all deeply care about, and they frequently compliment the individuals who help them navigate the process and deal with their disease in a much more user- friendly manner,” said Dr. Posner.

Patients are not the only ones benefitting from this more efficient program. Dr. Posner said UCMC physicians and referring physicians are also happy because they are getting what they want—an efficient system that works.

The Approach
The Central Cancer Intake and Navigation Program offers the following to make the intake process as efficient as possible:

  • One toll-free phone number [1-855-702-UCCC (8222)] for scheduling across departments and sections
  • Multidisciplinary appointments scheduled on the same day when clinically appropriate
  • Prescreening for clinical trials and supportive services
  • Preregistration and insurance verification
  • Assistance for patients in acquiring outside medical records for UCMC physician review
  • Single, complete information package that is mailed to patients
  • Appointment reminder calls to patients and follow-up calls with referring physicians
  • Post-consultation point of contact, as needed