History of Patient Navigation

Patient navigation has evolved tremendously in the past few decades. Take a look at some of the courses of events that have helped shaped the industry today.

1971 – Cancer Act Signed

Around this time, the second leading cause of death among Americans was cancer, which prompted President Richard Nixon’s “war on cancer” and resulted in legislation dedicating $1.6 billion of federal funds to help eradicate the disease.

1989 – Report to the Nation on Cancer and Feedback

After a series of conversations and hearings with low-income cancer patients, the American Cancer Society released a report finding many additional challenges contributing to the disparity among cancer survival rates.

1990 – First Patient Navigation Program launched by Dr. Harold Freeman

As a result of these findings and after receiving support from the American Cancer Society, Harold P. Freeman started the first patient navigation program at the Harlem Hospital Center.

1994 – Native American Cancer Research Corp (NACR) Native Sisters Program and Training launched

NACR has been conducting community-based participatory research, cancer screening and early detection for nearly 30 years. In the early 90s, they expanded to support patients across the cancer continuum through their Native Sisters Program and Training.

2005 – American Cancer Society launches Patient Navigator Program

The American Cancer society launched their first Patient Navigator Program in 2005 and today, they have over 60 sites across the country supporting cancer patients and their families through their diagnosis and treatment.

2007 – NCI Community Cancer Centers Program Established

What started off as a pilot program in 2007 serving minority populations with research, patient navigation and quality care has now grown to over 21 sites providing patient navigation across the country.

2007 – Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute launches

After pioneering the concept of patient navigation in the early 90s, Harold P. Freeman later went on to launch the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute for the effective training of patient navigators.

2009 – Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN) formed

Ten years ago, professionals across the cancer continuum came together to establish what has now become the largest national organization outlining, promoting and improving the roles of oncology nurses and patient navigators.

2010 – The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), the Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Release a Joint Position

Setting up the foundation for a more collaborated effort in cancer care, the ONS, AOSW and NASW worked together to release a joint position statement on the role of oncology, nursing and oncology social work in patient navigation.

2012 – Commission on Cancer releases Patient Navigation Process Accreditation Standard 3.1

The Patient Navigation Process Accreditation Standard served as an important first step in providing comprehensive cancer control professionals and cancer program administrators the right tools to close the health gap among cancer patients. This roadmap served as a guide to establish an effective patient navigation process.

2013 – ONS releases Oncology Nurse Navigator Core Competencies

After observing that oncology nurses also served as navigators working with other healthcare staff, the ONS released the Oncology Nurse Navigator Core Competencies to better define their roles and skills.

2015 – George Washington Cancer Institute Publishes Core Competencies for Oncology Patient Navigators

Featuring interactive web-based presentations and discussions, the George Washington Cancer Institute created the first consensus-based competencies for Oncology Patient Navigators.This training was supplemented by their Guide for Patient Navigators.

2016 – AONN launches Oncology Nurse Navigator and Oncology Patient Navigator Certification Exams

To ensure a standard of practice and care, the AONN established certification that created a baseline of knowledge, best practices and expertise for oncology nurse and patient navigators.

2017 – Launch of the National Navigation Roundtable (NNRT)

NNRT, a national coalition of over 50-member organizations and invited individuals, launched in 2017 with the goal of achieving health equity and improving access to quality care across the cancer continuum through effective patient navigation.

We recently celebrated our first-year accomplishments at our 2018 NNRT Annual Meeting. Watch and read the recap of the event here.