At Oncology OnTrack , we talk with cancer programs everyday about how they can improve their patient navigation programs. A question we get quite often is, “how many patients can I expect a navigator to track each year?” Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear-cut; there are several variables that must be taken into consideration.
Some questions that need to be answered are:
1) When will navigation start and stop? Some breast centers begin tracking patients when a mammogram is scheduled, while others begin tracking if a cancer diagnosis is made. Similarly, breast centers have different points at which they finish tracking patients, such as when a patient’s pathology is returned as benign or when the patient’s treatment is completed.
2) What type of activities will the navigator perform? Possible navigation services offered include: contacting patients at each major treatment step, such as diagnosis, specialist consultation, tumor board presentation, additional diagnostics, pre-op, and post-op, and updating the primary care physician at each treatment step as well.
3) Will the navigator have help? Some navigators divide navigation services with a diagnostic navigator or treatment navigator.
4) How many different departments will the navigator have to communicate with? Nurse navigators may need to communicate with medical oncology, radiation oncology, support services, etc.
By analyzing our clients’ data for 2012, we found that, on average, a nurse navigator using Oncology OnTrack can track 225 to 250 patients per year. If you would like to discuss my calculation, please contact me. Our number is based on the experiences of nurse navigators across the nation, from cancer programs big and small.
Does this number sound accurate to you?