Background and Context:
Compared with other Australians, Indigenous Australians have higher cancer incidence, higher cancer mortality,(1) more advanced cancer at diagnosis,(2, 3) and lower cancer survival.(2, 3) Navigating one’s way through the complex health care system for cancer care can be arduous and fraught with uncertainty and fear.(4) Navigator programs have the potential to capture the unique complexities that may arise for Indigenous cancer patients.
To examine the feasibility of an intervention (Indigenous Patient Navigator – IPN) to reduce the inequity in cancer outcomes for Indigenous patients.
We developed a protocol for training Indigenous patient navigators, trained one IPN, and recruited 18 patients in this study. The supportive care needs of participants were assessed through a specific tool for Indigenous cancer patients.
Our process used a collaborative approach to integrate the practice (Hospital Indigenous Health Liaison Officers expertise) and research team.
Outcomes/What was learned:
It is feasible and practical to have an IPN working in the hospital setting.
The patients: 18 (69.2%) patients were interviewed and 08 (31%) refused participation. The most frequent moderate to high needs were related to Physical & Psychological domains ('worrying about the illness spreading’ (28%), 'concerns about the worries of those close to you' (22%), ‘feeling down or sad’ (17%), ‘anxiety’ (17%), and ‘work around home’ (17%).
Through one-one-one education and information provided to patients and family members, the IPN increased patients’ awareness about the available support services.
The health care service: The IPN must work collaboratively with health care service staff to make this feasible.
The IPN: should have a ‘health background’ to be able to understand the training and complexities of cancer care.
The systematic measurement of needs/outcomes requires intensive training of the IPN with no research background.
Research: The translation of research to practice requires major involvement of the research team with patients.