Association of Community Cancer Centers: Creating Programs to Assist in Financial Navigation

March 2020 Vol 11, No 3

An Interview with Joanita Miranda, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C

Joanita Miranda, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, is an oncology social worker and oncology financial navigator at the Edward & Marie Matthews Center for Cancer Care, Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center.

The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) is a community of more than 25,000 multidisciplinary practitioners and 2100 cancer programs and practices nationwide. For over 40 years, ACCC has brought together healthcare professionals across all disciplines in oncology, including navigators, to promote quality cancer care.

Members rely on ACCC for education and advocacy support in adapting and responding to complex changes and challenges in the delivery of quality cancer care. As the leader in financial navigation education for the multidisciplinary cancer care team, ACCC’s Financial Advocacy Network empowers all care team members to proactively integrate financial health into the oncology care continuum and help patients gain access to high-quality care for a better quality of life.

The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) is supportive of the important work being carried out by ACCC. In fact, AONN+ and ACCC collaborate on a program to promote resources and effective practices for engaging patients in shared decision-making. ACCC is committed to building the confidence of financial advocates and navigators and connecting them with resources and solutions to ultimately improve the patient experience. Whether you are an experienced financial advocate or new to the field, the ACCC Financial Advocacy Boot Camp will prepare you to help your patients and your program address the growing issue of financial toxicity. This online curriculum provides the key knowledge and strategies necessary to succeed in the increasingly essential field of oncology financial advocacy. Look for Boot Camp 2.0 launching soon. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Joanita Miranda, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, a member of ACCC, to better understand the ACCC member experience related to patient financial resources.

JONS  To start, can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to join ACCC?

Ms Miranda  I am a licensed clinical social worker with 20 years of hospice experience. I was new to oncology when I joined the cancer program staff at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center in 2015, and I had a lot of learning to do. My colleagues, who were well established in the oncology field, introduced me to ACCC.

JONS  Can you tell us a little about your experience as an ACCC member?

Ms Miranda  Through ACCC resources, I learned about different types of cancers—information about treatments, best practices, and resources for all members of the care team, including articles and tools from oncology social workers.

I appreciate how ACCC brings together healthcare professionals across all disciplines in oncology to promote quality cancer care. ACCC is a diverse and powerful community where, regardless of your role in caring for patients with cancer, you can find support, information, and like-minded peers.

My colleagues and I rely on ACCC for education and advocacy support when we are confronted with complex changes and challenges in the delivery of quality cancer care. We often turn to ACCC for resources and practical approaches on how to improve management and operations processes, how to stay informed on trends in cancer care, how to understand regulatory and reimbursement changes, and for peer-reported experiences on effective integration of new technologies and therapies.

JONS  Oncology financial navigators are involved in reducing financial toxicity for their patients. ACCC hosts an initiative dedicated to this topic. Can you share a few practical strategies for improving financial advocacy services within a cancer center?

Ms Miranda  About 3 years ago, oncology financial navigation was added to my role. I was thrilled to find that ACCC had launched an online Financial Advocacy Boot Camp that was free to members. I learned so much about how to help patients navigate the cost of care and how to be proactive. In my current role—and I think for most oncology financial navigators whatever their professional background—training is essential. Oncology and our healthcare system are constantly changing, so being proactive in learning is the best strategy for being effective in this role. Understanding insurance coverage—government and commercial—and the resources available to lessen the economic impact of a cancer diagnosis is a complex undertaking. Meet with patients early in the process—at the time of diagnosis or as soon as their treatment plan is known—then we can help them save money and even lower the cost of care. Communication between the oncologist, social worker, oncology nurse navigator, and financial navigator is crucial.

JONS  Finances can often be a sensitive topic to broach with patients. How can navigators effectively engage patients in that conversation?

Ms Miranda  I’m a firm believer in building trust and relationships. When I meet with patients, I don’t want to add stress, I want to alleviate any distress they have about affording care or the potential financial burden of treatment. Once a rapport is established and the patient is comfortable, the discussion is usually not as challenging. Of course, there are outliers. As a social worker who is also a financial navigator, I know that the conversations will vary depending on the situation and patient. Sometimes, I simply ask direct questions, such as, “Have you heard about copay cards?” “Do you know that you may be eligible for free meds?”

JONS  Do you have any advice for financial navigators?

Ms Miranda  Financial navigation is a fairly new concept in the oncology community, and it requires education of both the patient and the care team about how to be effective. I will tell you, financial navigation is both challenging and very rewarding. My advice is to get the education and support you need as a navigator and take advantage of programs like ACCC’s Financial Advocacy Network. It’s the right information, education, and support, at the right time. If you are not yet a member of ACCC, you can take the course for a fee of $155—which will also include a 1-year individual membership to ACCC. I really hope financial navigators will take advantage of this resource.

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Last modified: August 10, 2023

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