MedStar Cancer Navigation

Background

In 2016, due to the generous support of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH), DCPCA and its member health centers developed the Cancer Patient Navigation program. MGUH is a non-profit, acute care teaching and research hospital. MGUH and DCPCA partnered to develop an innovative primary care, patient-centered, evidence-based model that will aid in the removal of barriers associated with cancer screenings for District residents.

The program’s primary objective is to increase cancer screening rates (breast, colorectal, and cervical) for patients in underserved communities.

Core Activities

Patient Navigators at community health centers identify patients in need of screenings and connect patients to cancer screenings (either in-house or external) and as needed, diagnostic and treatment services. Although screening is of primary focus, navigating patients through ongoing medical care is a key priority for improving overall health outcomes.

The MedStar-DCPCA program employs two full-time Patient Navigators. Each navigator is based in a DCPCA-affiliated community health center in DC:

  • Bread for the City: one clinic in Ward 6 serving approximately 2,600 patients annually
  • Community of Hope: two clinics in Ward 5 and 8 serving approximately 9,500 patients annually

The DCPCA-MedStar partnership provides:

  • Comprehensive patient navigation for cancer screening, diagnostics, and treatment.
  • Support of navigators to develop best practices in partnership with their clinic staff.
  • Opportunities for knowledge acquisition and exchange to share best practices with others, locally and nationally.
  • Leadership in addressing systems-level challenges faced by patients and providers in improving access to quality cancer screening and treatment.

DCPCA’s approach to care seeks to identify, connect, and manage patients through the full health care spectrum.  Although the focus will be on improving cancer screenings, navigating patients in ongoing medical care will be a key priority for improving overall patient health outcomes.  Once linked to care, the navigators will ensure the patent is referred to appropriate cancer screening and, as needed, diagnosis and treatment.  Through this process, the navigators identify and address patient barriers to care to ensure continued engagement in the DC healthcare system. 

Through the DCPCA partnership, navigators become catalysts for quality improvement (QI) within their clinic, and within the broader healthcare system.Their impact extends far beyond the day-to-day interaction with patients and their efforts contribute to creating a sustainable system of more effective cancer screening and care. By having a staff dedicated to cancer quality improvement, the clinic gains a QI project champion who can track data to inform improvements and integrate interdisciplinary staff on workflow redesign and managing the QI lifecycle.

Through this collaboration of a hospital system, PCA, and health centers, we can develop coordinated, sustainable solutions to system challenges. Current areas of focus:

  • Improving information exchange for cancer screening results between providers throughout the District; and
  • Reducing structural barriers to cancer screening and care for District residents.

How to Get Involved

For more information on the patient navigation model or to request technical assistance and training regarding cancer screening, please contact our Director of Quality Improvement, Megan Loucks at mloucks @dcpca.org.