Tag Archives: improving care coordination

Creating a Navigation Intake Assessment Tool

By Tricia Strusowski, MS, RN

Compass pointing at answers-SMALL      “I want to be aware of the navigator and support services as soon as possible.”

This is a frequent response from patients when asked about the optimum point in the cancer care journey to learn about navigation and support services.

And yet, during a first visit (or intake interview) with a patient, navigators may question how much to review. Where is the balance between too much information and not enough?  Based on my experience in care coordination and patient navigation, here’s my perspective on creating and using an intake assessment tool.

Number 1 Rule:  Assess if the patient is ready for this discussion. First, provide support. Let the patient and his or her family take lead in the conversation. Listen. Then, based on your assessment, ask the patient and family if they are ready to review the support services and their specific needs. Once you receive their permission, you can then initiate the intake assessment process.

Each cancer program should have a consistent process for assessing and educating patients and families about the cancer program and support services.  A well-crafted intake assessment tool can be used for all cancer disease sites and should include the following:

  • Role of the navigator and the support staff at your cancer center
  • Mini assessment of immediate support service needs
  • Preferred learning style for education
  • Questions that prompt a conversation on what the patient knows about his or her cancer
  • Questions to elicit from the patient specific concerns, goals, and family concerns
  • Family, medical, and surgical history
  • Mini symptom and behavior risk assessment
  • A listing of national and community resources (usually included in patient’s treatment journal).

Gathering this essential information at the time of your initial visit with the patient will establish a strong foundation for the multidisciplinary team. The navigator’s assessment process is an opportunity to begin the discussion about goals of care and/or goals of their treatment—a pillar for providing patient and family-centered care. Further, identifying patients’ preferred learning style and using it across the continuum sets them up to succeed in understanding their cancer and treatment plan. This information can be shared at tumor conferences, multidisciplinary meetings, huddles, or via email if a secure environment is established.  It is also vital to support the navigator role in educating the patient and family consistently, as well as providing an important resource tool for navigators who may be called on to cover for a colleague. An assessment tool is a key component for a consistent foundation to navigation, but health literacy training and patient education teach-back methods can enhance the process and support staff success in educating patients and their families.

Assessing the immediate needs of the patient and family, while providing education and support, establishes a patient-centered approach and lays the groundwork for a strong bond between the patient, family, the navigator, and the support services.

View a sample navigation intake assessment tool. You are welcome to revise this tool as needed for your cancer program.


ACCC member Tricia Strusowski, MS, RN, is a consultant with Oncology Solutions, LLC.

The upcoming 34th ACCC National Oncology Conference, Oct. 18-20 in Nashville, Tenn., features multiple sessions focused on optimizing patient navigation services to improve the patient experience, and more. View the conference agenda.

Bridging the Gap and Improving Outcomes

By Susan van der Sommen, MHA, CMPE, FACHE

ThinkstockPhotos-507273299Healthcare is becoming increasingly complex. With emerging payment models, regulatory initiatives, HCAHPS, and the complexity of electronic health records (many of which don’t communicate with each other), the concept of patient care has changed. How often have patients expressed dismay that their care provider seem more focused on the computer screen than on their needs and concerns? The endless entry of data, best practice alerts, and hard stops that are intended to streamline and improve care have unintentionally added complexity. In fairness to the evolving nature of electronic health records (EHRs), they have added benefits, too. They cannot, however, replace the value of human interaction.

In the November/December 2016 Oncology Issues, Connie Savage shares how Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan was able to address a complex issue that cannot be effectively resolved through a high-tech initiative—the transition of care from the inpatient to the outpatient setting. In today’s healthcare environment it is challenging to add positions that are not either revenue-generating and/or required by a regulatory agency or credentialing body. Yet the team at Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan was able to build a case to hire an inpatient coordinator who is charged with improving patient, provider, and family satisfaction and provider efficiency while reducing no-shows, hospital length of stay (LOS), and avoidable readmissions. At this program, the inpatient coordinator serves in a role similar to a patient concierge—gathering and sharing pertinent information, establishing patient and provider expectations, and arranging appointments—ensuring that the patient’s experience and transition to the home and/or outpatient setting is comprehensive and seamless. The return on investment is clear: improved patient and provider satisfaction, a streamlined discharge process, a reduction in length of stay (LOS), and a decline in avoidable admissions and readmissions. These outcomes align well with evolving payment models including, but not limited to, CMMI’s Oncology Care Model. It is likely that Connie and her team rely heavily on their EHR; however, they have proven that a technology-driven solution can never replace a caring human touch.


The story behind the story. ACCC member Connie Savage shared her role as inpatient coordinator at the 2015 ACCC National Oncology Conference New Member Meet & Greet in Portland, Oregon. Our ACCC editorial team heard her story and encouraged her to contribute an article to ACCC’s journal, Oncology Issues. Connie also agreed to share her program’s pioneering approach to patient care by presenting a poster at the recent ACCC 33rd National Oncology Conference in St. Louis. Connie’s story is great example of how our member programs are able to showcase their work on a national scale and share their “how-to’s” with other ACCC-member cancer programs. We are grateful to Connie and all our members who take the time to share their innovative approaches to success and ultimately improve care for our patients.

Contributing blogger Susan van der Sommen, MHA, CMPE, FACHE, is Executive Director, DSRIP, Bassett Healthcare Network, and Chair of the ACCC Editorial Committee.