Bristol-Myers Squibb has awarded grants totaling $175,000 to the American Cancer Society Eastern Division and Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS) to support comprehensive navigation services for patients with cancer both independently and as part of a collaborative effort among several hospitals in central New Jersey.
Several studies have linked patient navigation to improvements in patient outcomes and survival rates, particularly for patients with cancer. Navigation is viewed as an integral component of cancer services. Navigators help coordinate patients’ care and guide them to resources that can provide psychosocial support and address financial concerns, language or cultural issues, and day-to-day needs such as transportation.
The grant to PHCS supports the expansion of a successful patient navigation program at the system’s acute-care hospital, University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP) in Plainsboro, N.J. The program was first piloted at UMCPP’s Breast Health Center in East Windsor, N.J., under the guidance of a breast health navigator, and also among UMCPP’s patients with lung and esophageal cancer. The move toward a Comprehensive Oncology Patient Navigation Program will expand navigation services to encompass all cancer patient categories at UMCPP’s Edward & Marie Matthews Center for Cancer Care.
The Matthews Center for Cancer Care at UMCPP regularly refers patients to the American Cancer Society, and the two jointly offer the “Look Good Feel Better” program. In addition, the Matthews Center for Cancer Care regularly offers collaborative programs with Cancer Support Community Central New Jersey and frequently refers patients to Cancer Care for counseling and psychosocial services.
PHCS used the Bristol-Myers Squibb grant to expand its patient navigation staff to include a full-time senior navigator at UMCPP, fund a patient orientation program and provide more materials to help patients better understand their diagnoses.
“We envision a program in which all patients who receive a cancer diagnosis at UMCPP [approximately 800 to 900 per year] and patients who are returning for cancer treatment [approximately 200 per year] will be routed through an integrated program in which they will be supported from inception to aftercare,” said Judy Neuman, CTR, director, Cancer Services, Edward & Marie Matthews Center for Cancer Care at UMCPP. “We believe that making this available to our patients will help them to better cope with their diagnoses and to better understand and manage their experiences through a complex healthcare system as they receive treatment.”
Jeff Descoteau, whose mother undergoes treatment at UMCPP, said the navigator service proved invaluable. Patients and their families can be overwhelmed when they receive a diagnosis of cancer. But Descoteau said the navigator at UMCPP, Lori McMullen, RN, MSN, OCN, relieved the stress by helping them understand the treatment options and available resources. McMullen explained which expenses were covered by insurance or secondary insurance and also informed the family about national programs that offer additional financial aid. She made them aware of in-home services, including medical care and assistance with household tasks. She also helped them with assistance for the cost of prescriptions and connected them to transportation services for medical visits or treatments.
“Lori McMullen is an angel in our eyes,” Descoteau said. “She took the time to learn of our personal situation, and she not only shared her knowledge about the resources available to us but also did the legwork to get the results we needed for any situation. With her assistance, my mom was able to focus on what she needed to do to get back to a normal life. And I was able to focus on what is most important to me: my mom.”
The American Cancer Society Eastern Division (ACS) will use its Bristol-Myers Squibb grant to support onsite patient navigation program and services for underserved, newly diagnosed cancer patients in Mercer and Middlesex counties in New Jersey. In addition, the grant will enable ACS professional staff to develop or work with existing patient navigation teams at area health systems, including the Matthews Center for Cancer Care at UMCPP. ACS professional staff will spend two half-days per week at UMCPP as well as at the sites of its other health system collaboration partners.
ACS uses a team-based, on-site approach to providing underserved patients with increased access to essential non-clinical services including transportation, financial assistance, support services and cancer information. ACS navigators also link patients to hospital and local community resources. Another key feature of the program is the close collaboration with health system partners: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Capital Health System and UMCPP.
"A cancer diagnosis can be a life-changing experience for patients, their families and their caregivers," said Natasha Coleman, MPH, regional vice president, ACS. "Our patient navigators will be able to provide cancer patients in Middlesex and Mercer counties support every step of the way, from explaining what to expect with chemotherapy to making sure patients have transportation to and from appointments. Fighting cancer is a difficult, challenging journey; with the help of this grant, patients don't have to go through it alone. This close collaboration with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro and Capital Health System allows all health partners to increase our capacity to serve newly diagnosed and underserved patients in our area.”
Collaborations such as those among UMCPP, ACS and other service organizations have the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of cancer patients, says Murdo Gordon, senior vice president, Oncology, U.S. Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “Bringing together organizations with common goals, similar programs and potentially complimentary services can lead to efficiencies in immediately tangible ways,” he says. “With the coming changes of the Affordable Care Act, the financial impact on organizations and individuals will likely be profound, and the entire cancer community will need to work together to address these concerns. Collaborative approaches, such as those being taken by UMCPP and the American Cancer Society, which bring together meaningful services from various providers to support a given community, is a refreshing solution.”
About Bristol-Myers Squibb
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. For more information, please visit www.bms.com  or follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bmsnews .
About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of more than 3 million volunteers saving lives and fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society's efforts have contributed to a 20 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates. Thanks in part to our progress nearly 14 million Americans who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will celebrate more birthdays this year. As we mark our 100th birthday in 2013, we're determined to finish the fight against cancer. We're finding cures as the nation’s largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings, clean air, and more. For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call us anytime, day or night, at (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org.
About Princeton HealthCare System
Princeton HealthCare System is a comprehensive, integrated healthcare system that strives to anticipate and serve the lifelong needs of central New Jersey residents, including acute care hospital services through University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, behavioral healthcare, rehabilitation, home care, hospice care, ambulatory surgery, a primary and specialty medical practice, and fitness and wellness services. For more information, visit www.princetonhcs.org .