Patient navigators

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help residents access health services. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Provides culturally sensitive assistance and care coordination in order to guide patients through available medical, insurance, and social support systems
  • Usually implemented by hospitals or clinics and may be fully integrated into a primary care team
  • Most commonly used in cancer care, often serving low-income or disadvantaged patients
  • Also known as "system navigators"

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

  • Increases rates of cancer screening, especially for breast cancer
  • Improves adherence to breast cancer screening recommendations, diagnosis follow-up, and treatment
  • Improves quality of life after cancer diagnosis
  • Increases screening rates for colorectal cancer and cervical cancer, especially when implemented in conjunction with patient education
  • Eliminates barriers to cancer care and can be effective for disadvantaged and minority populations, including blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, non-English speakers, and those with limited English proficiency
  • Decreases disparities in screening rates by improving screening among Latinos and non-English speakers
  • Eliminates disparities in diagnostic resolution delays based on employment, housing, and marital status

Best practices in implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Regularly update screening and patient tracking infrastructure, including advanced technology and new methods of screening
  • Facilitate conversations between health care providers and patients to generate sustainable relationships and build patient confidence
  • Prioritize not only initial consultation but also follow-up with patients
  • Train staff on a mix of community and clinic-based topics such as communication skills, screening education and guidelines, patient counseling, cultural competency, and social support as well as study protocol and human subject training
  • Employ community-compatible staff, with respect to language, culture, socioeconomic status, and gender
  • Develop a more patient-centric approach by exploring multiple options to maintain contact with patients including phone calls, text messages, home visits, video calls, based on patient needs
  • Partnerships with community leaders, especially in marginalized communities, can foster long-term trust and increase patient participation and can help patients feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing financial concerns