Patient Navigation and Community Health Work in Colorado

By: Andrea (Andi) Dwyer

Program Director-The Colorado School of Public Health-CPCRN Network

Co-Director- Colorado Colorectal Screening Program Patient Navigation Program

Executive Committee Member-The Colorado Patient Navigator and Community Health Worker Collaborative

Patient Navigation (PN) and Community Health Work (CHW) are two distinctive areas of the health care work force that have received a lot of attention and focus over the last several years; particularly with ACA implementation, call for increase in patient engagement, team based care initiatives, and improvement in quality standards.  PNs and CHWs have specific roles and scope of practice with a mission to work in and with the community and/or medical setting to improve health.  The literature and data suggests that PN and CHW do make an impact in improve health outcomes.  Some activities of PNs and CHWs are to connect individuals and families with resources for basic needs, help with financial resources and primarily navigate to and through the health care system.  In Colorado, PN and CHW activities and programs are well established, some specific efforts and programs such as: Native American Cancer Research Corporation, Community Voices at Denver Health and Sisters of Color United for Education, have been in existence for several decades and serve as national models.   Colorado is known as a leader in program/service implementation, training and research-many of the people leading these efforts, are also leaders throughout the country in this work.   To further our efforts to advance PN and CHW, The Colorado Patient Navigator and Community Health Worker Collaborative (the Collaborative) was formed in 2012.  The primary focus of the Collaborative was to convene organizations and individuals who were dedicated to the advancement and sustainability of PN and CHW.  The Collaborative has worked to develop a set of core competencies and definitions for PNs and CHWs, help connect programs and services by building PN CHW portal powered by United Way 2-1-1 (in process) and convene a series of Summits to talk about next steps to examine workforce, credentialing and certification and reimbursement for PNs and CHWs.  Several exciting and specific efforts to help support these overarching sustainability goals by partners including the following efforts:

  • The Patient Navigator Training Collaborative (PNTC) offers training for PNs in Colorado free-of charge with support from CCPD Funding and have started online Learning Communities.
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are exploring implementation of a volunteer credentialing program for Patient Navigators.
  • With the Affordable Care Act, many Regional Care Collaborative Organizations are utilizing Community Health Workers and able to compensate for their work in the community through Medicaid reimbursement.
  • Several hospitals and facilities are using per member per month (PMPM) payments to support salary of Patient Navigators directly with their facilities.

These are just a few of the many examples of the efforts that are propelling PN and CHW, to be a truly sustainable part of the care force in Colorado.  The Collaborative has grown to be over 300 plus individuals and organizations statewide, we hope you will join us to progress these efforts in this exciting time.