Cancer Patients Can Find Help to Handle the Details

Help for you to avoid or address non-medical issues

Nurses Helping Patient

Patient navigators know that patients dealing with cancer can use all the help they can get in making their journeys through treatment easier.

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Also known as patient liaisons, they help with a variety of nonmedical tasks that patients and their families need while visiting a hospital or medical center for treatments or other appointments.

“Each day, I try to introduce myself to as many of the new patients as possible,” says Patient Liaison Tyler Somershield. “I introduce our liaison service and give them my card with my office number, cell phone number and email address.”

One of the patient navigator’s main goals is to help patients avoid nonmedical obstacles that they may encounter or provide a remedy if an issue occurs, Mr. Somershield says.

“We try to relieve any stress or confusion that may emerge from an operational or systematic problem,” he explains. “We certainly try to make their experience better.”

Helping with scheduling changes, parking

Liaisons can help when there are any types of changes, delays or scheduling hiccups with treatments or appointments. These may cause patients to wait longer than expected.

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“I try to mollify their concerns and at least make sure that a care provider can see them if they arrived and for some reason the appointment was cancelled,”  Mr. Somershield says.

If patients wait more than an hour through no fault of their own, the liaisons can give them free parking vouchers. For patients who need financial assistance and who have multiple, ongoing visits, liaisons can also try to find payment assistance to pay for parking.

Connecting with other hospital departments

The liaisons can connect to various departments when the patients have concerns about particular issues. These issues may include billing questions or financial arrangements. The liaison can talk directly with the financial services department or customer service billing department, for instance, to communicate those concerns for the patient. The patient navigator will likely be able to get a response or a resolution to the issue faster than the patient could on his own.

“If the situation is very involved, then I prefer to have the people meet with the experts or talk to them, and I connect them to the right person,” Mr. Somershield says.

Assisting out-of-town patients with lodging, records

For out-of-town patients, the patient navigator or liaison can help them find a place for the family members to stay at a nearby hotel. They can also help them work with the health data services department to make sure that patient records, scans, doctors’ reports and so forth reach the right office.

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Additionally, once the patient’s appointment is over, the liaison can help make sure that the documents are returned to the patient and/or their physician in their hometown.

Helping set things right when they go wrong

One of the most difficult challenges occurs on a rare occasion when patients aren’t happy with their service or medical care. The liaison can help get them scheduled to see a different medical expert, if that’s what they choose. The liaison may also encourage a patient or family to speak with the ombudsman’s office if the concern needs official documentation and review.

A liaison can also help when the care is optimal, however the patient is depressed or despondent and/or the caregiver is struggling to help their loved one. Liaisons will refer those patients to social workers who will provide supportive counseling.

“We are troubleshooters,” Mr. Somershield concludes. “We try to be proactive and we try to ensure that the patient’s experience and daily maneuvers proceed as well as possible on their cancer care journey.”

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