Baylor Health has invested more than $275 million in improving cancer facilities in the past year with the opening of the outpatient Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Dallas in late 2011 and the inpatient Baylor Cancer Hospital in February 2012. Combined into a single campus, the two facilities are meant to position Baylor's cancer services as a destination center for those in North Texas and elsewhere. John McWhorter, president of Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, says for that goal to be reached, service and coordination have to be at the forefront.
"Embarrassingly enough, hospitals generally don't do a good job of helping the patient and family navigate through all these options," McWhorter says. "I think that's why our patient navigation office has been such a hit."
The six full-time cancer navigators have several roles. The first, as a facilitator, is to help patients manage appointments or referrals so that, for example, they can see a team of specialists in a single day rather than spread out over a week or two. For instance, a patient with a renal mass might need to see as many as four specialists: a urologist, a surgeon, a medical oncologist, and a radiation oncologist, Robinson-Hawkins says.
"Why can't we get those initial appointments scheduled all on the same day?" Robinson-Hawkins says. "That patient makes one trip down here. He may see the urologist at 8:00. He will see the oncologist at 11:00, and he will see the radiation doctor at 2:00. A patient's time is not wasted. Gas is not wasted. We're coordinating the care of the patient to make sure we're all on the same wavelength. And then the navigators will get everything that that physician needs to make an informed medical decision—from medical records to CT scans to x-rays to a patient's pathology slides."