A Systems Approach to Navigation Research at the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Island Centre

May 24, 2013

Previously, I have shared with you two models of navigation: lay navigation and virtual navigation. This week, I would like to introduce the population-based navigation model to you. This approach, which is also known as systems-based navigation, focuses on how organizations such as the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Island Centre function to support seamless navigation for patients and families.  
One of the identified needs for patients and families is the ability to access information that supports the transition into care at the BC Cancer Agency. Working with a group of patient representatives, we evaluated the “new patient package” provided to each new patient. We learnt that most patients were not reading the materials in the package and were therefore not aware of the services and supports available to them.  
Our first step to address this gap was the production of a patient DVD which was mailed to each new patient prior to their consultation. The patient DVD omitted most of the clinical information that was previously included in the patient package and focused on what patients identified as necessary information instead. We then followed up with a mailed survey to all new patients attending the clinic to evaluate the effectiveness of the DVD.  
We received phenomenal responses from the patients indicating that the DVD was very effective at preparing them for their first visit at the clinic. Further information such as transportation and accommodation details was then compiled in a companion booklet to be included in the initial mail out. Six months later, a team of clinicians suggested that care could also be improved if the Health Assessment Form was mailed with the DVD and companion booklet. Patients could then fill the form ahead of time and provide more comprehensive information to the health care team.  
While this research on how effective our system was for patients may not seem significant, it demonstrates how small research efforts can lead to significant practice changes that facilitate easier navigation for those first diagnosed with cancer. We have improved the care we provide, and the lives of our patients through navigation research.
In my final blog post next week, I will share the projects that are currently underway and those that are in development. I will also explain how the research program has expanded to include the full scope of supportive care for patients.