Why Needs Navigation Can Signal A Larger Paradigm Shift

Luka Rizzuto is a rising senior at Binghampton University studying History and Philosophy, Politics and Law.

I’m Luka Rizzuto, a Binghamton University senior pursuing a double major in History and PPL (Philosophy, Politics, and Law). I’m thrilled to intern at NPAF this summer, working closely with the policy and grassroots team. After graduating from Binghamton, I plan to pursue a career in public policy, a decision greatly influenced by my experience with the NPAF team.

I was drawn to patient advocacy, specifically NPAF, due to its patient-centric mission. I felt that I was joining a team of talented individuals who work day in and out to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, an incredibly compelling notion. Through my initial time spent working and learning with NPAF, I’ve learned much about the systemic and social issues plaguing the current healthcare system. My current work involves researching compatible legislative integration for needs navigation, the crux of what NPAF stands for, and a tool that can holistically assist disenfranchised communities.

While the term “Needs Navigation” may be unfamiliar to some, the concept is not. At its core, needs navigation is about helping people; it encompasses a dynamic intervention by skilled helpers, offering vital support to patients and families experiencing medical challenges, alleviating both their financial and social burdens. However, the path to success in this endeavor is far from straightforward. The social healthcare system is rife with complexities, and one of the primary hurdles lies in consolidating various channels into a central conduit, ensuring patients receive competent guidance. What sets needs navigation apart is its focus on a unique gauge of success: qualitative indicators (QI) i.e. patient happiness, stress levels, and quality of life. Unlike many legislative programs that often prioritize tangible fiscal returns, needs navigation places the patient at the heart of its assessment. Rarely, if ever, are specific patient-oriented outcomes included in the evaluation criteria of other interventions. By recognizing the importance of patient happiness, needs navigation shows a profound understanding of the true purpose of healthcare – to enhance the lives of those it serves. By prioritizing patient-centered care and emphasizing the emotional and social aspects of medical conditions, this approach cultivates a healing environment where patients feel supported, empowered, and truly cared for throughout their journey.

The significance of what Needs Navigation aims to achieve is crucial in itself, as it represents a transformative shift in patient metric analysis. By prioritizing patient well-being and satisfaction over purely fiscal considerations, this approach challenges the current healthcare system’s status quo, which often emphasizes financial gains over tangible patient impact. This can be further legitimized by the incorporation of QI into legislative evaluation, specifically as it relates to healthcare services. The question that arises is how to use these immeasurable facets as evaluative components without relying solely on hearsay.

While I can only provide initial suggestions for the legislative implementation of this change, there is ample room for these components to evolve into comprehensive and well-founded proposals. These components involve three customary processes: focus groups led by federally contracted navigators, patient narrative survey responses, and mixed media data analysis.

The primary data acquisition phase combines internal perspectives from patient responses and external insights from state-contracted navigators, resulting in a rich collection of qualitative data. In the secondary analysis phase, third-party data analysts or specialized machine learning algorithms can be employed to identify themes, patterns, and underlying meanings within the gathered responses. Further analysis culminates in a memo/report directed to legislative officials (in all likelihood, the Department of Health and Human Services), which details the qualitative state of affairs as perceived by the patients and navigators. This adds a unique and necessary humanistic touch, complementing the quantitative findings.

Ultimately, by harnessing QI alongside metric analysis, more robust patient-centered federal goals can be established; this approach ensures that state-contracted navigators’ funding will be contingent on achieving a holistically positive patient experience. Paradigm shifts are reliant upon normalizing a once novel notion, and as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the first footprint must be the formal realization of QI within the statute. Upon patients recognizing the substantial benefits of these innovative metrics, legislators and external healthcare services will be forced to acknowledge and conform to the emerging norm; a norm that delivers patients the care they truly desire and require.