Feature Stories

Astellas US LLC and the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators Announce Collaboration to Improve Oncology Patient Experience

Nov 20, 2018

Finding out that you or a loved one has cancer is a devastating blow that brings about many changes. Life is turned upside down with the initial shock of diagnosis and the flurry of questions around type, stage, treatment options, side effects, insurance coverage, out-of-pocket costs and more that flood your mind. There is an overwhelming amount of information to take in for patients and their caregivers, and so many difficult decisions to make throughout the cancer care journey.  

Unfortunately, this scenario is one that all too many of us will experience as over 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States alone. Studies show that more informed and supported cancer patients typically fare better and experience fewer side effects; the feeling of empowerment plays a role in the healing process.

So where do cancer patients find help navigating the complexities of the cancer care journey? Oncology navigators – nurses, social workers and other non-clinically trained individuals – have become an integral part of the multidisciplinary team guiding cancer patients, their family and caregivers through the burdensome cancer care journey. Navigators work to identify and address barriers to care, facilitate timely access to care, and provide resources and support.

A first step for navigators is to establish a patient’s acuity, which is a commonly used term in healthcare environments but not widely understood. A simple definition of patient acuity is the level of care required, which is determined based on the clinical characteristics of each individual suffering from a cancer diagnosis. A navigator’s ability to assess patient needs can be enhanced and supported by the development of an oncology navigator-specific acuity tool.   

To address this unmet patient and caregiver need, Astellas US LLC is collaborating with the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) to develop, standardize and validate an evidence-based oncology navigation-specific acuity tool. When finalized, the tool will have the potential to determine the level of support cancer patients may need from their oncology team to help them better understand their disease, treatment options, and next steps, and to empower greater engagement in their care along their journey. (Read the press release announcing this collaboration here.)

“Collaborations with external organizations on the front lines of care, like this one with AONN+, help Astellas uncover new patient insights and create innovative approaches that have the potential to improve lives,” said Doug Noland, head of patient experience, executive director, Astellas Americas. “The role of the navigator is positioned to directly influence cancer survivors’ care, and we consider it a real honor to work side by side with AONN+ to enhance navigators’ ability to improve overall patient experience.”

“The oncology navigator is positioned to facilitate important transitions in cancer survivors’ care, and the development of an acuity tool will enhance their ability to help patients,” said AONN+’s Danelle Johnston, MSN, RN, ONN-CG, OCN, chief nursing officer and senior director of strategic planning and initiatives. “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Astellas on this important project to fill a significant unmet need in the cancer community.”

The co-developed acuity tool is targeted for release by end of 2019. The collaboration also includes assembling a task force of subject matter experts and other oncology leaders to ensure the tool can be used by all levels of organizations, by all types of navigators and at all points in the cancer care journey.

For Astellas, the AONN+ collaboration is especially important as it has the potential to create a new best practice for patient-centered care delivery with potential to deliver health care cost-savings.

“By supporting navigators through the collaborative development of an oncology acuity tool, we aim to benefit patients and the broader healthcare ecosystem,” said Noland. “In the landscape of value-based care, navigators have the potential to influence the patient experience and clinical outcomes through patient-centric navigation approaches, which may drive cost efficiencies while improving outcomes.”

In November 2016, Astellas implemented its Patient Experience Organization. By focusing on areas of unmet patient needs, patient advocacy, and forming novel collaborations with external healthcare stakeholders, the team seeks to create and deliver new value for patients and their caregivers beyond traditional pharmaceutical innovations and support.

Read more details on the AONN+ collaboration in our press release here.