Objectives: To help better control chronic conditions we need to address root causes of poor health like unhealthy behaviors, mental health, and social needs. However, addressing these needs in primary care is difficult. One solution may be connecting patients with a navigator for support creating a personal care goal.
Methods: As part of an RCT to evaluate a feasible approach to care planning, 24 clinicians from 12 practices in the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network (ACORN) and 87 intervention patients with uncontrolled chronic conditions participated in a care planning intervention. We had a structured process to guide patients, train navigators, and adapt the navigation process to meet the needs of each practice.
Results: Only 1 practice had bandwidth for staff to serve as a patient navigator, even for extra pay. For the other 11 practices, a research team member needed to provide navigation services. On average, patients wanted 25 weeks of support to complete care plans. The average time patients needed to speak with navigators on the phone was 7 min and 3 s. In exit interviews, patients consistently shared how motivational it was to have a caring person check in on them, offer help, and hold them accountable.
Conclusion: Patient navigation to address care plans should be feasible. The time commitment is minimal. It does not require intensive training, and primary care is already doing much of this work. Yet, given the burden and competing demands in primary care, this help cannot be offered without additional resources.
Keywords: care planning; chronic disease; community engaged research; intervention design; patient navigation; primary care.