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Time and Motion Study of a Community Patient Navigator

Sara S. Phillips Laura S. Tom Charito Bularzik Melissa A. Simon

*Corresponding author: Melissa A. Sim m-simon2@northwestern.edu


Research on patient navigation has focused on validating the utility of navigators by defining their roles and analyzing their effects on patient outcomes, patient satisfaction, and cost effectiveness. Patient navigators are increasingly used outside the research context, and their roles without research responsibilities may look very different. This pilot study captured the activities of a community patient navigator for uninsured women with a positive screening test for breast cancer, using a time and motion approach over a period of three days. We followed the actions of this navigator minute by minute to assess the relative ratios of actions performed and to identify areas for time efficiency improvement to increase direct time with patients. This novel approach depicts the duties of a community patient navigator no longer fettered by navigation logs, research team meetings, surveys, and the consent process. We found that the community patient navigator was able to spend more time with patients in the clinical context relative to performing paperwork or logging communication with patients as a result of her lack of research responsibilities. By illuminating how community patient navigation functions as separate from the research setting, our results will inform future hiring and training of community patient navigators, system design and operations for improving the efficiency and efficacy of navigators, and our understanding of what community patient navigators do in the absence of research responsibilities.

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