What’s In a Name? A Caveat for “Navigators”

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What’s In a Name? A Caveat for “Navigators”

Friend of health and patient advocates and NAVIGATORs everywhere, Elisabeth Russell, forwarded a link to many of us this week – an article from the National Cancer Institute regarding the use of patient navigators for cancer patients. My first reaction is – what a marvelous, MARVELOUS service these navigators are providing to cancer patients.  I have to wonder how cancer patients ever survived treatment prior to having a navigator to help them! And then I have to pause…. I see a few problems cropping up – two that can be problematic for health and patient advocates, and one a problem for patients. The problems for advocates: First:  The term “navigator” is being co-opted by the cancer community so that, when the public hears “navigator,” it is aligning that term with cancer.  If you use that term in your company name, it could become a problem for you down the road UNLESS you, too, are focusing on cancer clients, and don’t care to market your services to people with other medical challenges. If you haven’t yet chosen a name for your practice, then I would avoid “Navigator” or “Navigation” (with the same exception listed above.) No problem using the word as a description of what you do – as in, “I help you navigate your care,” as long as you have other descriptors for the work you do and services you provide, too. Second:  Since cancer navigators are available in the hospital or large cancer practices, patients are not paying for them directly.  I can guarantee the cost of navigator services is being built in somewhere (beware the $75 box of tissues!) – but patients think they are being helped for free.  Next time they get sick, or if they hear a friend is sick, their thought will be to contact a patient navigator – whose services (they believe) will be free. Imagine how upset they will be if they find you (who has “navigator” in the name of what he or she does) and find out you plan to charge them for your services!  This is already a problem for…


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