Who is a Health Navigator?

A health navigator (also known as a patient navigator or resource navigator) is a member of the health care team who helps individuals overcome barriers to quality care. They address barriers including access to health care, insurance or lack thereof, poor health literacy, transportation, child care and more.

Health navigators usually are trusted members of the community they serve and have an unusually close understanding of the community served, often due to shared lived experiences.

Health navigators build effective working relationships with their patients, helping to support, educate and assist patients to navigate the complex health care system. To navigate this system, health navigators need to work effectively with both patients and multidisciplinary care providers and community partners. They need to be able to identify their patient’s physical, emotional, and cultural needs and help them access appropriate resources to meet these needs.

Health navigators have a good understanding of the health resources available in their communities in order to refer their patients to the best resources available to them.

Research indicates that patient navigation provided by unlicensed health navigators reduces health disparities, improves patient engagement with their health, enables patients to get the care they need, improves health outcomes and reduces health care costs.

Who employs health navigators?

Health navigators are employed by health care delivery systems including primary care, specialty care, managed care as well as local public health agencies. Typically they are HIPAA-covered entities or may be HIPAA hybrid agencies where only some programs in the system are HIPAA-covered (e.g., some local public health agencies may be HIPAA hybrids). Examples of agencies that are part of the health care system include:

  • Individual health clinic (includes provider-owned clinic).
  • Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).
  • Community health center.
  • Hospital and hospital networks.
  • Integrated health systems - health systems focus on the continuum of care, from wellness and preventive services to urgent care, inpatient care, outpatient care, hospice, health plan offerings and more.
  • School-based clinic.
  • Safety net clinic or hospital.
  • Rural health center.
  • Local public health agency.
  • Accountable Care Collaborative (ACC) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) – in Colorado, Regional Accountable Entities (RAEs).