UAB Study on Lay Navigation Program Shows Trend Toward Cost Savings

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Edward Partridge, MD

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) presented preliminary findings of an observational study indicating a rapid decline in Medicare costs and patient resource utilization during implementation of a lay navigation program. The study was presented at this year’s ASCO Annual Meeting.1

In 2012, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center created the Patient Care Connect Program, a lay patient navigation initiative with the support of a $15 million Health Care Innovation Challenge Grant Award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The Patient Care Connect Program was designed to pair a trained nonclinical lay navigator with a patient with cancer to help him through his cancer journey.

“The goals of the program are to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and inpatient intensive care unit days, encourage evidence-based clinical pathways, adopt earlier use of hospice care, reduce use of chemotherapy in the last 2 weeks of life, and provide the highest quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer,” said Edward Partridge, MD, Director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and Principal Investigator of the Study.

“Our trained navigators help address the barriers patients often have with identifying resources for their care and empower them to recognize clinical symptoms, become more knowledgeable about their disease and treatment, and when necessary engage in end-of-life discussion with their providers,” said Gabrielle Rocque, MD, Assistant Professor in the UAB Division of Hematology and Oncology and Medical Director of the Patient Care Connect Program.

About the Study

Researchers examined 30,589 Medicare patients receiving cancer care across the Network from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2014. The study evaluated health-care utilization with hospitalizations, emergency department visits, intensive care admissions, and hospice admissions for all eligible Medicare patients. In addition, during implementation, the study analyzed the cost to Medicare for the overall medical care.

The results of the study indicate a dramatic trend toward a clinically significant reduction in health-care utilization and Medicare costs, with substantial impact during initial phase, survivorship, and the last 6 months of life. 

“Certainly this study has its limitations in that some of these trends cannot be fully attributed to the Patient Care Connect Program,” Dr. Rocque noted.

Disclaimer: Drs. Partridge and Rocque reported no potential conflicts of interest.


1. Rocque GB, et al: ASCO Annual Meeting. Abstract 6502. Presented May 29, 2015.