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The emerging role of the financial navigator

By Dan Sherman, Founder and President, NaVectis Group
Couple checking the availability of funds

Significant advances have been made in the treatment of chronic illnesses like cancer and autoimmune diseases. New treatment options, including targeted immunotherapies, are showing great promise in extending lives.

But these advances come with a high price tag. In 2013, an estimated $115 billion was spent on healthcare related to cancer alone. By 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates this spending will reach approximately $173-$207 billion.

Unfortunately, many of these costs are being shifted to patients through increased out-of-pocket responsibilities such as premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copays. This cost shift causes financial toxicity for patients, affecting their quality of life and treatment adherence.

Protecting patients from financial toxicity

So, how can healthcare providers help patients who are experiencing high out-of-pocket costs for their prescription medications? Patients may not understand how to access these treatments without running the risk of financial ruin.

Poor health insurance literacy means that many patients who are prescribed expensive treatments would benefit from professional guidance to lower their risk of financial toxicity.

Reducing patient financial toxicity should have high priority for healthcare providers. In fact, an emerging healthcare profession, known as financial navigation, shows great promise in alleviating financial barriers for patients getting expensive treatments.

What is financial navigation?

Financial navigation focuses on treating and preventing financial toxicity by guiding patients through our complex healthcare system to help them gain access to care by reducing financial barriers.

Just like physicians can proactively alleviate the toxicity of pain by administering anesthesia prior to surgery, financial navigators can help remove financial barriers and facilitate access to needed treatment.

Patients desperately need well-trained financial navigators who can guide them through the complexity of our health insurance system.

Effective financial navigation utilizes copay assistance and patient assistance programs to help reduce financial barriers when patients are prescribed medications that come with high out-of-pocket costs. Importantly, financial navigators also evaluate insurance plans for patients, ensuring that the right choices are made and to leverage available programs and services.

Providers who implement financial navigation services within their practices see improved patient satisfaction and lower out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, institutions such as hospitals and cancer centers benefit from reduced financial loss.

Positive outcomes result with trained financial navigators

Programs that have implemented financial navigation services experience success when the financial navigator has a singular focus, receives comprehensive training and gets ongoing support to track changing insurance policies, regulations and assistance programs.

Financial navigators who build trust with the patient and develop a clear understanding of their diagnosis and treatment needs can reduce or even alleviate the patient’s risk of financial toxicity.

Training for financial navigators

For more information on professional training in financial navigation, visit: