Study: Patient Navigators Can Help Allay Health Care Inequities

New research from Northwestern University reinforces the importance of the patient navigator in addressing barriers to care–particularly for lower-income and non-English speaking patients.

The five-year study included nearly 500 uninsured women who had received abnormal breast or cervical screens. The navigators helped these patients make appointments, coordinated with interpreters, referred patients to community services and provided emotional support.

The vast majority of the Spanish-speaking patients included in the study had significantly lower income, health literacy and confidence levels in self-managing their care than their English-speaking counterparts.

Focusing on follow-up time, their findings demonstrated that the patient navigators helped level the playing field. There were no differences in the likelihood of delayed follow up between the Spanish- and English-speaking patients–despite the greater barriers to care for the former group.

The report was published late last month in the American Journal of Public Health.