Consumer Enablement Guide

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Care Navigation

Care navigation is usually provided as part of the care coordination process and helps people navigate their way through the health system.1

What is care navigation?

People living with chronic conditions often need access to multiple health services, numerous assessments and advice from different care providers. The only people who are there at every stage of their healthcare journey are often family or informal carers.

Dealing with different health services and facing unfamiliar people and places can often be confusing, especially for people who are sick and vulnerable. Without someone to help them navigate the health system, there is a risk that these people will disengage and fall through the cracks in the system.

The people that benefit most from care navigation include people with:

  • low health literacy
  • a lack of experience with the health system
  • language or communication barriers
  • cultural safety barriers
  • socio-economic disadvantage
  • cognitive or intellectual disability
  • a lack of confidence with new people
  • complex needs that require an array of tests and treatments.

Why is it important?

Care navigation is a way of supporting coordinated, person-centred care. It can play a crucial role in helping people get the right support at the right time.

Care navigation can:

  • reduce delays to accessing healthcare services
  • improve timeliness in diagnosis and treatment
  • reduce the number of people lost during follow up
  • reduce hospital readmissions
  • improve short-term quality of life
  • increase consumer satisfaction
  • improve adherence to self-care.2

How to practice care navigation

Care navigators provide consumers with the support and practical assistance they need to navigate the health system, including identifying and addressing barriers that may prevent timely access to care.3

Care navigation usually focuses on a defined set of health services needed to complete an episode of care.3 It is provided for the duration of the care episode, or until the person can navigate the health services by themselves.1

You may already perform aspects of care navigation in your role, such as:

  • providing information and education
  • appointment scheduling and reminders
  • wayfinding and signage in health facilities.

In many services, care navigation is everyone’s business. In others, it is the responsibility of one person or part of a broader care coordination role.

What skills do you need?

There is no standardised training to become a care navigator, but there is training available to help you develop the core competencies you will need to become a care navigator.1

These include:

  • effective communication
  • enabling access to services
  • personalisation
  • coordination and integration
  • building and sustaining professional relationships
  • knowledge for practice
  • personal development and learning
  • handling data and information
  • professionalism.4

You do not necessarily need a clinical background to be a care navigator, as it does not involve providing healthcare treatment, planning or advice.

However, care navigation delivered by someone who shares the person’s language, cultural background or health conditions can be beneficial, as it helps develop stronger connections, better communication and trust.

References

  1. Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity UNSW. Rapid Review: Integrated Care Interventions: Final report. Prepared for the NSW Ministry of Health. 2017.
  2. Manderson B, McMurray J, Piraino E et al. Navigation roles support chronically ill older adults through healthcare transitions: a systematic review of the literature. Health & Social Care in the Community. 2012;20(2):113-27.
  3. Wells KJ, Battaglia TA, Dudley DJ et al. Patient navigation: State of the art or is it science? Cancer. 2008;113(8):1999- 2010.
  4. Health Education England. Care Navigation: A Competency Framework. NHS; 2016.

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