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The Case for Independent Cancer Care Advisors

Specialized cancer care advisors and advocates are shepherding patients through the often painful and confusing healthcare system.

A newly diagnosed cancer patient soon recognizes how little help there is in navigating the healthcare maze, including conflicting and inconsistent information and unexpected barriers to treatment.  

Too many cancer patients experience institutional delays in scheduling and confusing insurance claims and billing errors, and healthcare providers struggle to stay ahead of the rapidly advancing field of cancer treatments while managing current caseloads.  

Today, the science of cancer treatment is moving at an incredible pace, with new diagnostic and treatment options and a move toward more personalized cancer care. To say that healthcare providers struggle to stay on the knowledge curb’s front end while managing their current caseload would be an understatement.

In response, the medical world has welcomed specialized patient advocates. Independent cancer care advisors or advocates promote a strong patient-provider relationship to ensure the patient receives the best care possible to improve survival. 

Nurses have traditionally played this critical role in cancer care coordination. Over the last decade or so, several hospitals and healthcare institutions and networks have begun to offer in-house solutions, such as oncology nurses and social workers, lay and financial navigators to connect the proverbial “dots” and improve the cancer care experience. While a good start, there is no consistency in how these roles are utilized across the various organizational systems. Despite herculean efforts, in-house navigators are confronted with ever-expanding caseloads in a system that, rightly or wrongly, tends to value and incentivize efficiency. To what extent can they allocate the necessary time and resources to address the patient’s specific needs and wants while navigating and advocating the interconnected complexities unique to their situation?

These issues will continue to heighten as aging baby-boomers become more informed consumers and demand more from their doctors and the healthcare delivery system at large. Moreover, there is no need to look too far for current examples of how cancer care is affected by an overstressed healthcare system. Take COVID-19.

As a result, we have seen systemic access bottlenecks to critical cancer screenings, and increased fear, uncertainty, and social and emotional isolation among those who are newly diagnosed. These complexities within our insurance and healthcare delivery systems continue to create unfortunate barriers to care and time delays to needed treatment.

Who comprises this emergent group, independent cancer advisors? The one fundamental characteristic is that all of them conduct their services independently from an institution or healthcare provider.

Cancer care advocates are highly adept and uniquely positioned to help patients through their individual multi-layered medical and psychosocial situation. From the time of engagement, these advocates work swiftly to formulate, prioritize, and implement a flexible strategy to bridge healthcare system silos while addressing a patient’s individualized needs at any point of the cancer care journey.

And this is just one specialty role among the growing number of private health advocates, whose expertise is helping save patients money and, sometimes, lives.

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