The NNRT: Focus on Sustainability of Patient Navigation

January 2024 Vol 15, No 1 —January 12, 2024



When it comes to delivering quality cancer care, patient navigation is the great equalizer. Navigators have been shown to remove barriers to care and improve health disparities, but if navigation models aren’t sustainable, patients lose and health inequities persist. However, the National Navigation Roundtable (NNRT) is dedicated to changing that through its commitment to sustainable patient navigation.

At a recent AONN+ meeting in Orlando, Andi Dwyer, BS, and Linda Fleisher, PhD, MPH, discussed the intersection of sustainability and navigation and explained the role of the NNRT to attendees.

“We have the building blocks for navigation: we have professional standards, consensus metrics, training and certification programs,” said Dr Fleisher, senior scientist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Fox Chase Cancer Center.

What Is the NNRT?

The American Cancer Society launched the NNRT in 2017 with the mission of achieving high-quality cancer care for all through evidence-based patient navigation and a goal of sustaining and expanding patient navigation.

“The Navigation Roundtable is really about a collective action approach to focusing on gaps in sustainability for patient navigation, no duplication, and doing the work around the continuum and principles of navigation with a health equity lens,” said Ms Dwyer, chair of the NNRT and program director/instructor at the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Along with its partnering organizations—including nonprofits, industry leaders, health agencies, and academic and research institutions—the NNRT aims to:

  • Disseminate evidence that patient navigation reduces disparities and demonstrates effectiveness, value, and return on investment
  • Standardize outcome metrics and demonstrate defined professional roles/responsibilities of the navigator
  • Ensure a development path forward for professional and clinical/licensed navigators
  • Create a sustainable model for navigation funding

“By ensuring the role of navigators, [and, in turn], timely access, reduction in delays in care, and a patient-centric approach, we can help end cancer as we know it—for everyone,” Ms Dwyer said.

The 5-Year Aim

Between 2021 and 2026, the NNRT aims to achieve health equity across the continuum of cancer care by creating a sustainable model for oncology patient navigation. Members plan to tackle this aim head-on through monthly Steering Committee meetings that will help advance their mission and guide strategic planning. Task groups within the committee are focused on advancing this aim by diving into promising evidence-based practices, policy, workforce development, and membership.

NNRT 2022/2023 Impact

According to Dr Fleisher, the NNRT has already made major strides toward its goals. One of its most notable accomplishments was a supplement published in the journal Cancer, titled, “A Decade Later: The State of Patient Navigation in Cancer Care.”

“We have enough evidence to show that navigation is an effective intervention to help patients,” Dr Fleisher said. “And I think this supplement really highlights that.” However, she pointed out that it’s one thing to publish articles about the benefits of navigation, but it’s another to apply that evidence at work out in the field. To answer that call, the NNRT also launched a virtual Call-to-Action series and used research from the Cancer supplement to create educational webinars through which navigators could learn how to apply the research to their own work.

Finally, the NNRT has seen a significant increase in membership in recent years. According to Dr Fleisher, that momentum has been sustained through connecting with all of the different groups involved in patient navigation as well as by continuously engaging new and diverse members.

She reiterated that the work of the NNRT is collaborative, and its impact is due largely to the work of its partners. In addition to the Call-to-Action series and the Cancer journal supplement, the organization continues to advance the sustainability of navigation through tools like the Professional Oncology Navigation Task Force Standards, the AONN+ Metrics Toolkit, and a Community Guide webinar.

“NNRT is kind of the coalition of navigation,” Dr Fleisher continued. “It’s way too much for any one organization, and AONN+ and other partners are really taking the lead on various aspects. We’re not doing all of this work alone.”

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