People helping people: Patient navigator a life-saving holiday gift for Gwinnett community

Just in time for the holiday season, Gwinnett County residents are getting a present that could save their lives.

Gwinnett Medical Center and the American Cancer Society are partnering to place a Patient Resource Navigator onsite at the hospital to guide newly diagnosed cancer patients through the cancer experience.

Gwinnett Medical Center has long been a partner with the Society, and the implementation of the patient navigation program is the latest collaboration to increase cancer survivorship in Gwinnett.

The program gives Gwinnett residents who are diagnosed with cancer a one-stop resource to get the assistance they need to survive the disease.

Every year in Gwinnett, about 1,800 people are diagnosed with cancer. Most of those patients - 1,000 a year - are diagnosed and treated at Gwinnett Medical Center. So the decision to place a Patient Resource Navigator in the facility makes a lot of sense. The American Cancer Society knows that getting prompt treatment greatly increases a patient's chance for survival. But too many times, cancer patients fail to begin treatment right away for reasons ranging from confusion over treatment options to insurance issues to lack of transportation to and from treatment. The Society's Cancer Resource Network is designed to make it easy for cancer patients to get the information and assistance they need. Patient Resource Navigators serve as personal guides for patients as they face the physical, psychological, emotional and financial aspects of cancer.

The patient navigation program is a top priority for the American Cancer Society because it will help us reach more newly diagnosed cancer patients and create more cancer survivors. We know that surviving cancer depends on early diagnosis and treatment. But we also know that many under-served patients lack access to the information and treatment that will save their lives. Navigators work one-on-one with patients to resolve any challenges that prevent them from getting timely treatment.

Gwinnett Medical Center has already established itself as a leader in the fight against cancer in the community by offering ACS programs like FreshStart to help people stop smoking and Look Good ... Feel Better for women cancer patients, and through generous support of Society events like Relay For Life. Now, with the patient navigation program, the Center is taking a leadership position in its approach to survival of cancer patients.

Even in the midst of a $125 million campaign to build a new 155-bed patient tower and planning for a new center to offer open-heart surgery, Gwinnett Hospital System and the leadership at Gwinnett Medical Center recognized the value of the patient navigation program and made the decision to go ahead with the program.

Gwinnett Medical Center is truly giving a life-saving gift to its community this holiday season and for that the American Cancer Society is very thankful and appreciative.

For more information on the patient navigation program or to find out how you can support the program at Gwinnett Medical Center, call the American Cancer Society's Gwinnett office at 770-814-0123.

Randy Redner is the Gwinnett Area Manager for the American Cancer Society.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Randy Redner of American Cancer Society.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.