Oncology Rounds

Cone Health increases lung screening volumes nearly five-fold by expanding navigation

by Deirdre Saulet

Navigators are an increasingly essential component of a comprehensive, patient-centered cancer program. However, given their expansive—and often poorly defined—role, it can be difficult to track their direct impact on quality and financial outcomes. But that's exactly what Cone Health Cancer Center-Alamance Regional in North Carolina has done since using Oncology Roundtable resources to help them add a second lung cancer navigator. Keep reading to see how Cone Health made the case and tracked the downstream impact—to the tune of an estimated $750,000 in additional revenue per year.

Tapping into Oncology Roundtable tools to make the case

Last year, the lung cancer navigator at Cone Health was working over capacity trying to manage screening patients, diagnosed patients, and smoking cessation counseling. As a result, leaders realized that they were not meeting the demand for lung cancer screening in their community, which has a higher smoking rate than the nation.

They also realized that making the case to add another lung navigator to their multidisciplinary team would not be an easy task. Three steps were critical to their success:

  • Using the Cancer Support Services Volumes, Staffing, and Operations Benchmark Generator to compare their staffing levels to organizations of similar size;
  • Tapping into sample business cases, navigation models, and other resources housed within the Oncology Roundtable's navigation toolkit, as well as connecting with other cancer program leaders across the country; and
  • Conducting an internal downstream revenue analysis that estimated an annual $750,000 increase from hiring an additional lung navigator.

Create your own downstream value assessment using our Lung Cancer Screening Program Toolkit

In our research team's conversations with Cone Health, we were particularly impressed by how thoughtful and deliberate the leaders were in crafting this role. All too often, organizations try to fix any and all problems by adding navigators without first addressing the underlying processes. This approach positions navigators as "fix-it" people for the cancer program and does not fully maximize their skills or expertise. However, through Cone's Program Change and Labor Management Steering process, the organization made sure the navigator would be adding significant value for both patients and the program.

An immediate impact on screening volumes and outcomes

Within four months of hiring the navigator, the organization went from screening an average of 7.5 patients per month to 37—nearly a five-fold increase. During that time, the organization also diagnosed four patients, two of whom were early stage. Those four diagnoses have led to $245,000 in downstream revenue—already a significant return on investment for the organization.

Do you know if you're making the most of patient navigation?

Nearly all cancer programs have invested in patient navigation—but many struggle to maximize program impact. Here are six questions that you need to ask about your navigation program, along with strategies to address each.

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